Monday, November 24, 2014

Mexico International Resident Assistant Position

The Center for Global Education at Augsburg College – Mexico is hiring for an International Resident Assistant/Intern.  The position promotes a healthy living/learning environment for semester students and participants in short-term educational seminars, as well assists in the operation of all educational programs at the Augsburg College study center in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  The application deadline is Dec. 1 with a starting date on or near January 1, 2015. For a more detailed description and application form, please visit:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Challenge and Gratefulness

By Rachel Picard

“The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Viktor Frankl

There are times here in Mexico when I struggle. I am past the point of trying to convince others (and myself) that life abroad is constantly enjoyable and easy and never really a challenge. For me, living and studying in Mexico has been one of the greatest challenges of my life thus far, but one that I am so grateful for as it is opening my mind and heart and forcing me to question and acknowledge things I had never needed to confront before. The newest and biggest struggle – the color of my skin. I constantly struggle with the privileges that the color of my skin has granted me and so harshly denied to others. I have never been in a place where I am so clearly the minority, and I have never had to come to terms that in many places in the world, white skin is a representation of ancient and continuing violence as well as extreme social privilege. Although I did not request my race, the actions of people that came before me have great bearing on the way I am viewed here and force me to reexamine my own actions in this new community. Learning about the legacy of the Spanish Conquest and the political relations between my home country and Mexico has forced me to take a greater responsibility for the choices I make on a daily basis. So, all in all, I consider this struggle an opportunity for me to grow as a human being and to form connections with people I would not have otherwise known.

Some days, I find myself wishing that I didn’t have to hear about so much violence and aggression, about such long-lasting intolerance and dominating misogyny. But, even with challenging coursework and eye-opening excursions, the one thing that I hope to never lose sight of is how fortunate I am to be here, learning about things that were never taught to me in school. I never knew about the massacres of indigenous people, or the US-backed death squads in El Salvador, or political relations between the United States and Mexico. Even though it never becomes any easier, at all, to learn about the violent human-rights abuses that have occurred and continue to plague Latin America, I find strength through the experiences of others and hope for a more tolerant future.

Other frustrations are less difficult but nonetheless a daily challenge. There are days when I can’t understand a word in Spanish that I understood the day before, and other times when I come across words that are said to me every single day that I just can’t seem to remember. At some meals I have a thousand things to tell my Mexican grandmother, and at other meals I would rather crawl into bed and be alone for hours. Thankfully, the support system I have here is truly amazing. The staff at the house has never failed to say hello when they see me, my professors go above and beyond to make sure that I am healthy and happy and learning well, and the other students share in all the adventures. I have also been strengthened and blessed by the times when we have heard the stories of men and women here in Mexico who are passionately working for justice. There have been many times when, while listening to someone’s story, I have been overwhelmed by the strength they have displayed and I am re-motivated to join in their fight for a just society. In a Christian Base Community that we visited, the women told us that they share stories of both struggle and joy with one another because it is a way to strengthen the community individually and as a group. Participating in talks and gatherings like these have shown me that this is true.

Through all of these things, from dealing with the color of my skin to some difficulties learning Spanish, I am so incredibly grateful for my experiences living in Central America and the endless opportunities I have been given to learn and change and grow. I have given myself a daily challenge in Mexico, a challenge to find beauty in the little things. First, because I am so fortunate and truly grateful to be here, and this is a small way of giving back. And second, because I want to remind myself every single day how amazing it is to be a part of a community in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico; a place I did not even know existed six months ago.  

I will admit, when I first arrived in Cuernavaca I was extremely taken aback by the extremely narrow streets clogged with cars and the garbage filling the streets in the morning. The smells of this new city coming from the ravines during the afternoon heat were entirely different from New York’s smells, and everywhere I walked it seemed congested with people or animals or cars. When these differences begin to overwhelm me or I miss home or I lose touch with my reality here because I am so focused on returning home, I remind myself of the challenge I have given myself. I wanted to share some of my favorite moments where I have been surrounded by beauty and felt overwhelmingly grateful to be here in Mexico. Hope you enjoy!

 Sunrise outside my bedroom window in Cuernavaca

Storm clouds outside my bedroom window in Cuernavaca

Young girl in Puebla so excited by the bubbles

Motorcycle and its reflection in the water on a street in Taxco