Students Share Immigrant Experiences

On Thursday, October 1, the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), hosted its first of two Brown Bag luncheons entitled “The Impact of Immigration: Real People Real Stories” at the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center. The event provided Colgate students with an opportunity to share their personal experiences with immigration. The conversation at the luncheon addressed immigration as an important social and cultural experience, instead of turning it into a political debate. Even though the event was created partly with the intention of fostering communication among LASO members, students who are not members of LASO were welcomed and encouraged to share their own experiences with immigration.

There was a great deal of cultural diversity among the stories shared. Students contributed personal immigration stories from Spain, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and China. Although stories began in various places around the world, they all shared several common themes. Many students communicated the feeling that even though they suffered hardships in their country of origin, they do retain a nostalgic connection to that place. They also stressed that people are often motivated to immigrate to the United States because it is a place that affords greater opportunity and hope.

Sophomore Javier Calvo shared his experiences in Spain, El Salvador and then finally in the United States. He talked about the dangers of living in countries like El Salvador where gangs are often the law of the land. Javier’s story illuminated some of the problems associated with transplanting yourself from one country to another. He emphasized that even if you are a professional or elite in another country it does not necessarily mean you will have the same economic or educational status in the United States.

The stories of other students highlighted the difficulties people face when having to leave their countries of origin. Junior Felix Dai, who emigrated from China at a young age, talked about how he perceived his own national identity. Felix discussed what it is like for a person who has been disconnected from their country of origin to return to that nation.

Junior Juliana Mendez also talked about having to leave home, and expressed feelings of hope about a future return.

The Brown Bag lunch personalized the difficulties associated with immigration.

“[The luncheon] illuminated the hardships people face when going through the immigration process,” junior Yvette Bandin, a member of LASO, said. Although immigration is often a politicized subject, the LASO luncheon showed that it is a personal and profound experience for the individuals who go through the immigration process.