Halfway There

And yes, I AM living on a prayer.

This week known as Reading Week, which is more like Writing Week for me as I try to tackle 3 research papers with my spare time, marks halfway through my time studying abroad.

As with any semester, every week feels like it drags on, but the weeks pass by very quickly, a strange phenomenon. My days are down to a routine, and I can get my way around campus quite easily. I have familiar faces around me now. It almost feels weird to think back being on my home campus despite also knowing that like the back of my hand. I can get used to change fairly easily, so any hesitation was more of first-day jitters.

Because at first, it definitely felt like I was a freshman all over again. Everybody else, being it halfway through the year, has established themselves here. Especially on a small campus, that is even more evident. These people have a closely knit community I really admire, but it’s hard for a “drifter” like me to get to their level. I was back having that same anxiety from my first year wondering if I was doing it all wrong, if I should be doing this or that instead. I think the kids call that FOMO: the fear of missing out.

A consideration I was hoping I wouldn’t have much to deal with was mental illness, but alas, but depression and anxiety have hit me hard. This semester has also been different in that I’m not invested in a lengthy schedule. I have free time now I never had before during the school year, and that was very hard to get used to. I’m not good with free time, but it was a challenge for me to tackle.

Now on to the more fun things. I am beyond grateful for my experience thus far. I have found a new place to call my own, a beautiful place with a landscape I have immediately fallen in love with. While it’s intimidating to have two fluent languages conversing around me, it is also exciting. My campus has some beautiful buildings and people in them. 

Should I also mention again how I saw Justin Trudeau last month? That alone makes the trip worth it. But I have also enjoyed exploring the nearby burough and downtown area. And yes, I enjoy being a spectator right now as I see the current state of America and where it might be heading.

This experience continues to teach me every day. I learn the value of what “home” means to me, which has never actually been a place, but the people I hold dear. Keeping up with contact as well as a long-distance relationship aren’t easy, but they are worth the effort. 

I have always prided myself on being independent, but studying abroad is a true test of that. Which admittedly, it’s intimidating. Simple things like figuring out the bus system or getting lost can become overwhelming, but I have truly taken this time as personal growth. I have been able to learn about myself like never before. I have been able to dig deeper and discover new passions. I can grow more comfortable with myself and the person I would like to be, all of which are very empowering. Obviously you don’t need to leave the country for four months to figure that out, but being in a new environment is so helpful. 

I cannot wait for what the next two months will bring and how I can enrich my time here even more. As I had expected, my travel bug is now buzzing at its loudest volume, making me really consider how I want to move forward into the coming school year, my last year. 

The things I have to come learn and appreciate I hope to carry with me back to the States and beyond. I want to look at any sight and be in awe. I want to see the goodness in people. I want to make time for the things I truly believe matter to me. I want to look at fear and hesitation in the face and just live.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Campus Safe Haven?

For my host country like Canada, universities need no special recognition for welcoming anybody regardless of citizenship or ethnicity. When Canada already has an administration known for accepting every person that enters its borders, the entire country is a safe haven. The country hasn’t seen many asylum-seeking immigrants before, but according to Canada’s National Post, officials need to start preparing for an influx of new people at the border.

American perspectives on immigration are a tad different. Since Trump has begun pushing for efforts to find and remove all undocumented immigrants from the country, the collective emotion rising among the American people is fear. If Trump were to deport every single undocumented immigrant, the New York Times says the total people affected would be up to three million. If his plan is carried out accordingly, it would require raids by a vastly larger federal immigration force to find immigrants and send them out of the country. This proposed policy in of itself leads to further complications and questions.

From the anti-immigration fear arose an increasingly popular title for universities to adopt: “sanctuary campus.” A Billy Penn article defines a “sanctuary campus” as any American college that adopts policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants. The term is modeled after policies implemented by “sanctuary cities,” a status that has been adopted by over 30 towns. The status suggest campus policies such as barring campus police from enforcing immigration orders, not sharing student information with immigration enforcement officials, and denying federal officials entry without warrants.

My home campus, the University of South Dakota, is considering actions toward becoming a sanctuary campus. If approved, the decision would be the first of its kind in the sparsely populated conservative state. While it’s honorable to consider such a title, the campus designation is just that: a title. The title might be even more problematic than helpful. All college campuses should do the most within their power to legally protect undocumented students. Going beyond legal means would be both risky and potentially detrimental to the entire student body.

Becoming a sanctuary campus is less about practicality and more about viral headlines. Especially in the conservative Midwest, the term depicts a defiance of law and serves as a trope for unauthorized immigration. When such a “sanctuary” is tinged with racist and anti-Mexican sentiment, the term becomes even more poisonous. One person’s safe harbor is another person’s harboring. The real authority here, no matter how public universities try, is the state government funding it, a government that could easily decide to cut funding if such “sanctuary” actions are taken. Federal action could even potentially threaten to withhold federal funding for colleges refusing to issue student loans to students at sanctuary campuses or withholding federal research grants.

The sanctuary campus movement mainly aims to protect those under DACA, or Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals. American organization Immigration Equality says that on June 15, 2012, President Obama created a new policy calling for deferred action for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. After already deporting some recipients of this designation, according to the BBC, Trump seems to be disregarding DACA already, going on the basis of young people committing crimes worthy of deportation. Ultimately, however, DACA is a temporary deferment. Student visas are available, but to get a Green Card requires employment and there are a limited number. With any executive action to further deportation efforts, DACA would inevitably see an end altogether. At this point, all Trump has to do is stop renewing permits and stop deferring deportation.

The deportation matter is one we need to tread lightly and cautiously. In protecting students, universities should do anything legally possible for students who, after all, are not lawbreakers. Institutions should automatically provide support and services, as they would for all their students, especially vulnerable ones. Exacting pledges that cannot be kept will do no one any good.

Several major campuses have already decided to avoid claiming themselves as sanctuaries, including Stanford and Notre Dame. Both universities see the symbolic weight of moving forward as sanctuaries, but officials from both campuses see a greater fear in federal retaliation and increased exposure for vulnerable students that public institutions cannot protect them from.

Whether a university declares itself a sanctuary or not, American students still have basic rights that can protect them. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), for instance, prohibits schools from releasing a student’s personal information without the student’s consent. Also, the federal government has a long-standing policy to not attempt raids or arrests at certain “sensitive” locations like college campuses. Although there is obvious  concern that the Trump administration could reverse or even revoke those policies, immigration advocates say that the policies have been in place for so long that changing them would be extremely difficult.

As a public university, is moving forward into unknown territory with unknown repercussions smart? Universities can continue providing education and a location where immigration agents likely won’t go, but we’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist yet. The sanctuary title is nothing but another form of protest, a protest that would cause more harm than good. Choosing to be proactive is respectable, but it’s more respectable to have truly clear, legal standards to protect students.

The real action needing to take place is at the federal level to allow greater accessibility for immigrants to become citizens, a hope that probably isn’t feasible under the Trump administration. I wish I could end on a more hopeful solution, but legally, there is none at this point. To show support for all students, USD’s SGA bill works just fine, but we cannot expect USD to get involved otherwise. The government is still in charge. We just need to keep protesting and voting. We cannot stand behind a public university to face our problems. If this is an issue we are concerned about–and rightfully, we should be–this is our battle to fight.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Strain on Eyes or Trees?

Since I have midterms coming up next week, the impending doom of what those tests (and anxiety) might entail, my reading has certainly slowed down from past month. Another key reason is that it keeps snowing (cough, Spring, you can show up any time now…) so it’s near impossible for me to make it to the used bookstore I love.

Although there is an avenue I have considered to help in this dilemma, except my own preferences get in the way. I’ve tried to do the whole ebook thing. I’d love to be able to do it. My eyes just do not appreciate reading from a glowing screen for hours.

I already spend so much time in front of a computer or phone screen, reading is my little escape from the technological overload to wind down and feel like I’m not just wasting my mind away to mush. Yes, this is legitimate concern for me.

And especially knowing the big environmentalist that I am, you’d think I’d be all on board for more ebooks. Not only do they save trees from succumbing to the publishing industry, ebooks are cheaper to begin with and you can usually read them from multiple devices. Heck, if a book is old enough to be free domain, you can just read online for free, no questions asked.

Yet I still cling to the idea of holding a book in my hands, flipping the pages to see how long a chapter is, judging my progress from the depth of a bookmark. Reading is an experience, and having a slim little device takes away all of that joy.

Call me dramatic. I should just appreciate the literature and writing itself that I’m reading. But I truly do feel a difference in my interest and retention of what I’m reading when comparing the two scenarios. If I have technology in front of me, usually it’s not to read. Having your eyes staring at a YouTube video or TV episode is very different from reading.

Obviously people have preferences. If you have young people who don’t like reading in the first place, ebooks are a great compromise. For others, me included, the screen results in visual fatigue. Plus, especially for those who enjoy reading before going to bed (a great option for people with sleep problems. Again, I fall into this category), the artificial light transmitted from the screen will have the reverse effect on sleep.

When it comes to college textbooks, I prefer finding them online, which seems counter to everything I’ve said thus far. Yes, I retain way more information with a paper copy, but textbooks are also ridiculously expensive. Regular books can be very expensive too for what they are, too, but you have to find where the deals are: used book stores and thrift stores.

I already talked about the used book store I stumbled upon a short walk away from my university, and trust me, the prices would make any college student giddy. Plus, it eases my sustainable mind knowing that the system is recirculating titles already in print. My books can go to a good home, and I can find some unique books myself.

If you’re into the idea, of course there is always the library. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve never been big on libraries. Is it because I don’t like feeling like I have a strict deadline to enjoy a book? Or is the building just too eerily quiet for me? Who the heck knows, but despite my immense love for reading, it has never really appealed to me. Obviously if you aren’t as picky as me, it’s a great option. Just listen to Arthur and grab a library card.

So the premise of this post: you can still be sustainable whilst enjoying the sensory experience of reading. It’s easier to say we aren’t attached to such nostalgia and can enjoy the latest technology in literature, but if I can still have a peace of mind while having a growing stack of books on my desk, that is my go-to. That stack is a representation of my love for reading, a visual way to show the progress and knowledge I’ve gained. An ereader, no matter how advanced, will never have that same sense of accomplishment for me. Maybe I’ll try reading some classic novels online to get used to the idea more, but I’m stubborn in my ways. I say if this is the one aspect of life I can at least modify, find a middle ground between very wasteful and very efficient, I gladly will.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie