When Daniel Garcia ’17 signed up for a course on immigration his sophomore year, it wasn’t just to earn credits toward his double major in political science and Spanish. It was to learn more about an issue that is as personal to Garcia as it is political. The Woodburn, Oregon, native grew up in a community where nearly everyone, including his parents, was a first- or second-generation Mexican immigrant.
In the course, Immigration, Citizenship and National Identity, students read texts representing the viewpoints of authors from the U.S. and Mexico and engaged in heated discussions guided by Nancy Powers, visiting assistant professor of political science.
“I learned some intricacies of immigration that I didn’t know, and my classmates offered perspectives that maybe were more objective than mine,” Garcia said. “It helped me to see things from different sides and to delve into arguments a little better than I would have before taking the class.”
The course fueled Garcia’s interest in learning more about the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America, which he continues to research this fall during a semester abroad in Argentina and Chile. “Going abroad will help improve my fluency in Spanish and provide me with an important cultural learning experience,” said Garcia, who is studying comparative education and social justice.
This is Garcia’s first time traveling outside North America, an opportunity he earned as a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The award, funded by the U.S. Department of State, provides undergraduate students of limited financial means the funding to pursue academic studies abroad. Garcia is the seventh Kenyon student to receive this award.
“Studying abroad is one of those high-impact experiences that we want our students to have, but even though the cost is the same as studying here at Kenyon, many of our underrepresented students feel as if this experience is out of reach,” said Irene Lopez, associate professor of psychology. She encouraged Garcia to apply for the scholarship after getting to know him in her Latino Psychology class. “I immediately was drawn to Daniel because, like me, he was Latino and first-generation. I could see he had great potential and that getting the Gilman could further open doors for him.”
In addition to receiving $3,500 in grant money, Garcia is invited to meet people who work at the U.S. embassies in Argentina and Chile during his visit. He’s also expected to complete a community service project upon his return. Garcia plans to talk with families from his hometown about the benefits of studying abroad by attending a conference at his high school and sharing his story with his local radio station and newspaper.
“I’ve only known one or two people from my town to study abroad,” he said. “I think it’s important to plant the seed with parents before their kids go off to college that studying abroad is doable for them.”
Lopez knows from studying abroad herself in college what a powerful experience it can be for first-generation and low-income students. “I’ve dedicated my career to helping others become more internationally engaged as well,” she said.
Now Garcia aspires to attend graduate school and, like Lopez, pursue a career in which he can help students like himself access the kind of education he’s received at Kenyon. “The more I surround myself with people at Kenyon who have such big dreams, the more I want to achieve and give others the opportunity to achieve their dreams, too.”