My Path to the 2017 Leo T. McCarthy Public Service Award

Nichole Vasquez

Nicole Vasquez, Kinesiology ’17

2017 Leo T. McCarthy Public Service Award Winner

The Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good has been a formative part of my college experience here at USF! I am very grateful that I learned of the center my sophomore year of college. Since then, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Privett Global Scholar program, where I traveled to India and worked with an organization which focused on integrating people with disabilities into the school system. I also have served as an Advocate for Community Engagement, where I have been working with the incredible community partner, Family House. In each of these experiences, I have had the chance to be in community with folks from different walks of life. I have also had a chance to think critically about community-engaged work, and see that it often times is not a linear process. Post-graduation, I will be attending Creighton University as part of the Doctorate in Occupational Therapy program. I hope to carry on what I have learned through participation in the McCarthy Center programs in order to be a caring and compassionate occupational therapist. Thank you so much to the McCarthy Center for the wonderful work that you all do each day!

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Check out more of Nicole’s posts:

What About An Internship Abroad?

Future Advocate For Community Engagement

Bridging Two Homes at Starbucks: From Udaipur, India to San Francisco

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Syona Puliady

B.A., International Studies ’17

Syona traveled to India as a participant in the 2016 summer cohort of the Privett Global Scholars program.

It’s 2 a.m. and I am sitting in a 24 hour Starbucks writing a final paper on something I didn’t feel extremely passionate about. I have been awake for quite a few days now, and I don’t recall ever being so stressed in my life. I’m on my fourth cup of coffee and the last thing I want is to talk to anyone. But as always, whenever one asks life for something not to happen…it has to happen.

An elderly woman sits in the chair across from me. She eats a bagel while her eyes linger on me. I don’t want to be rude, but I am also so overwhelmed by my schoolwork that I don’t particularly want to engage in conversation with her either.

“Hello,” she says after exchanging a few minutes of silence. I mumble back “hi” and give her faint smile.

“Are you Indian?” she asks. I hesitated. This has always been a complicated question for me, and I generally have never enjoyed attempting to figure out an answer. Burdened by many negative stereotypes the West has constructed about India coupled with my family’s deepening resentment for it, my relationship with India has been slightly more than complicated. Having spent a majority of my life struggling with my ethnic identity, it has always felt strange trying to package all of these sentiments into a single, easy to digest sentence.

“Well…I guess so, yeah,” I started, “I was born in the States, but the rest of my entire family was born and raised in India. I suppose one could say I lived there a bit—but I’m not sure that I consider myself Indian.” This is my short, extremely rehearsed version of my complex ancestry and heritage.

“Oh me too! I lived there for a little bit, I think I was in…Bombay? I don’t remember now…I am actually from Ethiopia—but I loved India. Even though I don’t remember much of it, I will never forget all of its colors.”

I laugh. I begin to tell her more about my own personal loves for India. We both came alive in this conversation about our short lived experiences in a place on the opposite side of the globe. My schoolwork lay abandoned on the table between us as we both fondly recalled our favorite parts of India. My new friend was fixated on the colors.

“There are just so many colors! Everywhere you go, everything you see—it’s all so colorful!” she closes her eyes tightly, as if she is attempting to recreate her childhood’s imagination of what she had once seen. “Those colors…I think they are only so beautiful because they mimic the vibrancy of life in India,” she says to me. And I couldn’t agree more.

I bring this story to you because it was a moment in my life that really struck me—it was something so special to me that I carried the memory everywhere I went while traveling and working in India. It was only because of this conversation that I could finally see the beauty of my own motherland. Everywhere I looked and everything I felt was so full of color, full of vibrancy, full of life.

This conversation carried each and every memory I collected in India back with me to the U.S. It was so powerful to me that it could delicately bridge the gap between my two homes without causing more confusion within me. While this memory occurred before I started my journey back to India, it definitely set a precedent to how I would come to terms with going back to something that had always left a sour taste in my mouth.

I definitely tend to forget that there is still so much for me to learn, here in the United States. People seem so curious about life in other countries, that it seems as if we forget that many of our curiosities can be found here—right at home. But even on a more global scale, I’m always taken aback at how little I seem to appreciate the intimacy of human nature and companionship. I always feel so lost in the fast pace stresses of everyday life that I often forget that some of the best moments can be as simple as a conversation between two strangers at two in the morning.

 

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We’re Better Together

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Genesis Regalado
Privett Global Scholars
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Because teamwork makes the dream work. 

Being far from home and integrating yourself into a new culture is challenging and intimidating to say the least. It takes a lot of time and a lot of trust in the process–there’s no one moment when you are completely integrated or completely comfortable. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself because you’re in an environment in which it is okay to ask a trillion questions and be confused. I’d like to say that my transition has been flawless and brag about how good I am at picking up local lingo, but the truth is that living in Cochabamba has turned me into a confused extranjera who always has to ask for guidance, which is so different from the self-sufficient, U.S. me. I’d also like to say that I’ve done it all on my own, but again the truth is that I’ve had lots of help from my peers, the site team, my host family, friends and kind strangers.

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I work with Movimiento Sonrisa and my job is to go around the pediatric wards of the very run-down Hospital Viedma and play with the children and make them laugh. Loving them is not in my job description but I do it anyway. It’s impossible not to love every single one of them and want to cover them in bubble wrap and store them in my suitcase so they never get hurt again. There’s a certain magic to working with children. The power dynamic is interesting because you know you hold authority over them because you’re older, but they know that they hold a certain power over you because they’re little and sick. They have a way of opening you up and making you vulnerable that allows you to get out of your head and be your true self. I love working with them and I love reflecting on the way I act when I’m with them as opposed to the way I act in other settings. I d0n’t have any pictures with them because I have a real problem with volunteers who take photos with children for show. They aren’t a circus attraction, they’re tiny humans who would rather you interact with them than post about them on your summer blog.20160620_142026

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Read the rest of Genesis’s blog on the Privett Global Scholars blog.

McCarthy Center Rockstars

The results are in! Several of our students were nominated for Student Leadership Awards celebrating students whose leadership has contributed to the growth, development, and vitality of USF and the broader community. Award recipients represent student role models who exhibit commitment, enthusiasm, and the pursuit of excellence through their endeavors. Join us in congratulating our students on their achievements! Continue reading

What About an Internship Abroad?

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Nichole Vasquez
Privett Global Scholars participant

When I first learned about the Privett Global Scholars at a school information session, I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do.

The program is a ten-week internship in Udaipur, India where students are placed at NGO’s (non-governmental organizations), to complete a sustainable development project. When I first heard a former program participant talk about her experience abroad, her account consisted learning Hindi, few people at her work speaking English, and living with a host family eating traditional Indian food three times a day.

I myself, knew little to nothing about India, its culture, or what sustainable development looked like. The unfamiliarity of the experience pulled me in, and a couple months later I was living in India with a host family, interning at an NGO, and embracing a culture I had known little about.

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When searching for and working at my internship, I learned many different things along the way. Here are the three most important:

  1. Find the resources on campus and in the community.

Take the time to look around campus and the community to see what services, organizations, and other resources are available to you. Internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities are available where you least expect it.

  1. Try something new!

Even if something doesn’t sound like it’s your thing, go for it! You never know if a new experience could spark a new passion or even lead to your next job.

  1. Keep an open mind.

To get the most out of the internship experience, try to keep an open mind. Learning about a new culture and workplace can be overwhelming, but try to form friendships and listen to your co­workers, bosses, and the people you meet along the way.

I was fortunate enough that this internship led me to my next job as an Advocate for Community Engagement through the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. In this position, I work between a non-profit and students at USF. Although now I am back in the U.S., my time in India equipped me with the skills necessary to work in a non-profit.

While an internship can be the experience of work itself, it is truly more than that. It is made up of the environment, the people you meet, and the experiences you have. An internship, no matter how close or far, can be the experience of a lifetime!

This post is part of the Looksharp Internship Blog Competition. To read more about the competition and view other posts go here.

Traveling the world with the University of San Francisco

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Isabella Gonzalez Potter
2015 Privett Global Scholars Participant
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Outside of Cochabamba, Bolivia at the Parque Ecoturistico Pairumani outside of Cochabamba the mountains bore a tremendous resemblance to the Catalinas and reminded me of the landscape of Tucson, Arizona where I was born and raised. It is ironic to travel thousands of miles to find yourself in a place that feels remarkably like home, yet foreign at the same time.

As someone who is a double major in Environmental Science and Latin American Studies I have a strong sense of belonging here, because I am blessed to have the opportunity to study my two passions in the field. As the child of two immigrants the chance to study in Latin America is a homecoming. My father immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 from Altotonilco El Alto, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to work for Ford. My mother is an American who was born in Lima, Peru and was raised throughout South America because my grandfather was an accountant for the United Fruit Company. Thus the creation of my last names, Gonzalez Potter, and myself always an interesting experience to explain.

Through my participation at USF this past year I have been able to travel near and far. I have been on countless adventures throughout the Bay Area, I have seen the Galapagos Islands where Darwin came up with the theory of Evolution and Guayaquil, Ecuador (through the Biology Department), I have experienced snow in Chicago (I attended the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, USHLI, with Latinas Unidas), I have been to Washington, D.C. and stood at the steps of the white house (during DIAS an annual conference for my sorority, Lambda Theta Nu), and now I am in Cochabamba, Bolivia. But what this past year meant most of all, is that I rediscovered happiness through myself.

The first night with my new host family I was treated like the daughter they had always had. After waking up from a short nap after a week of not sleeping, the mom, Leny asked if I was ready to go to the youngest son Ivan’s kinder performance. After a quick rubbing of my eyes I smiled and agreed. We hopped into a trufi, Bolivia’s version of a taxi, and rode a few miles until we arrived at the school.

I was overwhelmed by the quantity of people – hundreds of children accompanied by mothers and fathers who were dressed in everything from traditional aymara and quechua clothes of the Andes, to young parents adorned in the latest Hollister and Aeropostale that was de moda. The show eventually began and the first group of kindergarteners descended upon the audience fully dressed in indigenous Bolivian clothing. They were paired boy to girl and they began to dance in sync with the music. Sparklers were joined by young girls who came out in outfits that remained me of carnival and danced behind a group of kids who couldn’t have been older than four.

As the night continued on I found myself looking into the sky. I couldn’t help but think of how we all look at the same moon, no matter where we are on the planet, there is only one. I thought about all of my loved ones back home and wondered if any of them were looking at it too. The mountains in the distance reminded me of Arizona and the Catalinas I would stare at every day when I drove to high school, or rode my bike, or went for a walk, or took a weekend trip with my family. All of those rides when I would just look out into some place that was both so close, yet seemed so far. For whatever reason I feel that I am in the right place at the right time, it is all meant to be.

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During our first week here, at the Parque Ecoturistico Pairumani I learned that I should have brought more than one bottle of water, and wearing Vans was a terrible idea.

Throwing up my sorority’s “L” in a foreign country where I am continuing to learn about myself and the world around me, exemplifies where I am currently at. My only hope for the future is that I allow myself to be fully open to whatever comes my way.

Live. Learn. Serve.

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