This creation of connections and embodying the call to caring for a common home is what Maria Autrey, the Ignatian Center’s program director of immersions, believes to be most important.
“We don’t have to be the protagonist, sometimes we have to be a witness, sometimes we have to be just another person joining, we don’t have to be the center of those movements,” Autrey says. “So I hope students can get the sense of solidarity with people that might be from a different context, who in their day-to-day life they might not encounter their struggle or their fight or the amazing work [that] they’re doing.”
This mirrors the goal of all Ignatian Center immersions: to help students get to know themselves and understand their own journeys, learn to accompany others on their separate paths, and ultimately appreciate their personal connection to the issue being studied. In Appalachia, for example, it’s sustainability and environmental awareness. At the U.S. border, it’s about immigrant rights.
Students in every immersion trip are given a loose framework of what issues they’ll cover, who they’ll talk to, which places they might visit. But ultimately, they are asked to take ownership of their experiences. Autrey has yet to meet a student who hasn’t said their life wasn changed by an immersion. “I think immersions are an amazing opportunity that not everybody has,” Autrey says. “To take a pause in their life, with such intentionality and also, to see ourselves as part of something bigger. So both in the sense of [something] personal, but also to understand that the University is connected with so many other institutions, so many other people, so many other organizations all around the world that are doing amazing work.”
For Khatoon, Appalachia holds a lot of mystery. “It’s not something we really learn about, or not something I’ve learned about in school, especially growing up in the Bay Area,” she says. “I feel like it feels so far removed, but then maybe [it can help with] realizing that we’re all interconnected with the world.”
And it’s not that students need to travel to some far off locale for the realization that we need to take care of the environment to sink in. As Delgado-Márquez says, it’s about learning to form a community wherever you go, and learning to care for that community wherever you are. “We want to prepare students to build community, to get touch in with our spirituality, hone in with the social justice aspects of the immersion,” she says, and “and then also [to] live simply or in simplicity.”