Friday, September 12, 2014

Hitting Our Stride in Week 2

     We have hit the ground running here with the Latin American Studies Program! All our students arrived to San Jose with no issues on Tuesday September 2nd and took off to live with their families (and test out their Spanish) less than 24 hours after their arrival! We really desire for students to form deep connections with their host families and to see them as their primary source for support and cultural understanding.
     Our first week consisted primarily of orientation activities. Students spent the day on Thursday the 4th learning their way through downtown San Jose. This included exploring the bus system, public telephones, finding the market, trying an unknown fruit and much more! A lot of these activities can be very empowering for students when they successfully figure out how to manage something that would be easy to do at home but becomes challenging in a foreign environment with a different language.
     After spending a weekend with host families, we jumped into classes with our first sessions of Core Seminar. This six-week seminar is designed to expose students to key topics that characterize Latin America and to encourage students to reflect critically on these issues through interactions with numerous guest speakers. We began Monday by focusing on colonialism and neocolonialism, and on Tuesday we discussed history and contemporary issues in Latin America. The objective of these classes was to give students the necessary background on our context in Latin America to allow them to better understand all of our seminar themes that are to follow. This can be challenging for students as we lead them to view these points from a Latin American perspective.
     Our class on Thursday featured our first guest speaker, our good friend Elmer Rodriguez. Students were very impacted by his story of growing up in extreme poverty alongside a garbage dump in San Salvador. We were all challenged to engage with poverty not in terms of statistics or strategies but by meeting a flesh and bone representative of real poverty. It is important to us that the subject of poverty does not remain an abstract, distant issue, but that it becomes a familiar face, a personal story.

     We are looking forward to having our first opportunity to interact with local University students who are learning English this Friday with the Universidad Metropolitana Castro Carazo. We will also have the opportunity to engage in the unique Independence Day activities of Costa Rica this coming Monday. We are thankful for student health and safety during our first two weeks of the semester and are looking forward to many more exciting and challenging weeks to come! 
 Students viewing Elmer's beautiful paintings after class 
Students enjoying lunch time in the LASP backyard 

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