Posted on May 25, 2009 by Tia Lalani

Chelsea Halvorson is a Global and Development Studies Major at University of Alberta�s Augustana Campus. She is one of the students who went to Mexico

by Nhial Tiitmamer
Chelsea Halvorson is a Global and Development Studies Major at University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus. She is one of the eight students who went to Mexico last year on Puebla-Alberta Community Service Exchange (PACSE). PASCE is one of Augustana Campus’ study abroad programs, which allows students to embark on a comparative study of rural communities of Alberta and Mexican state of Puebla. She particularly talked about how it was like to live in a community whose male members were working in the United States and how this has influenced her view of immigration.

“I experienced living in a town that was highly dependent on the wages of fathers, brothers, and uncles from working in the states,” she said. “I experienced the absence of a father, felt the long distance of a husband’s love, and the lacuna of a generation of males that are no longer contributing to the physical health of the community.”

Below is the rest of my interview with her.

Nhial Tiitmamer: How was it like to learn and live in a different culture and a different environment?
Chelsea: It was an experience that meant I needed to learn, listen, and take in experiences in a different way than I was used to here at Augustana. It was experiencing myself in a completely different and unfamiliar setting which is something all students need to do. Learning and living in this setting was an experience that taught me a different kind of independence and a new chance at finding interests in subjects I never dug into here at school.

Nhial: Any example of cultural shock you can tell if any?
Chelsea: Culture shock wasn’t an issue for me. I think the important thing; however, is learning to read yourself. It is necessary to know when you need some alone time, when you should phone a familiar voice back home, or when you need to let loose and stop focusing on structure.

Nhial: How has your study in rural Mexico changed your world perspective/view?
Chelsea: A major impact in my perspective was being able to experience immigration from Mexico from the opposite side of what our culture experiences it. My host father was in the United States when I was living with his wife, my host mother Dona Ana, and my two host sisters. It has had a significant effect on my views of immigration because I experienced living in a town that was highly dependent on the wages of fathers, brothers, and uncles from working in the states. I experienced the absence of a father, felt the long distance of a husband’s love, and the lacuna of a generation of males that are no longer contributing to the physical health of the community. Putting faces to this issue, being able to have a finger print on this experience, and hearing the emotion and sacrifice behind the stories has allowed me to really connect with an experience that I will never have here in Canada.

Nhial: How significant is this learning opportunity going to have on the rest of your life?
Chelsea: It is going to have a huge impact on my life experiences by creating for me more confidence in international settings and more confidence in questioning what is going on around me.

Nhial: If you can tell the next students who want to be on the exchange, what would you recommend they should do and what would you recommend they should not do?
Chelsea: [I would advise them to] ask questions about everything. If you don’t [ask], you could miss a very valuable lesson about culture that you might not find answers for in any other time in your life. If you don’t know how to ask, get your Mexican professor to help you. Ask about stories too and life experiences. Be vulnerable with your family. By doing this you will allow for so much more learning on both your end and theirs.

Nhial: Having volunteered in rural Alberta, what have you learned that you did not know about rural Alberta’s communities before?
Chelsea: [I learned] that every community has its own structure, its own volunteers, its own way of doing things, and its own stories of success and failures. All of these deserve to be respected and each carries a lesson of community.

Nhial: What difference did you notice between rural Alberta and Puebla?
Chelsea: The differences were endless but I think the important part is being able to see the similarities first. The heart of people, the idea of family, and the need for a community always seems to be necessary components in any place.


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