Lauren Nevin ’15 has found a plethora of ways to be an active community member over her years at the College, whether it be working with refugee families over Winter Study or leading the Lehman Council service projects. We sat down with the busy senior at Mission brunch to hear about her many adventures abroad and on campus.
What are you studying?
I’m a political science major. I most recently have been doing an independent project for my major on immigration policy and immigration reform. I’m looking at the debates for immigration reform in 1986, which was the last major immigration reform period, and comparing them to more contemporary debates and specifically looking at the views of immigrant workers and how our ideas of economy and productivity affect our views of rights of different immigrants.
That’s really cool. We heard that you studied abroad – was your trip related to that topic in any way?
It’s not related. I actually studied abroad in Jordan because I studied Arabic here. Whether I was going to continue with Arabic or not I wanted to make the most of what I learned, so I figured what better what to do it. I was studying in Amman, Jordan for three months.
Did you live with a family?
Yeah it was a homestay, and the majority of the homestay was with a family in Amman, but I also did a homestay in the desert. So that was a really cool part of it. We actually couldn’t travel outside Jordan, that wasn’t part of the program, so it wasn’t your typical abroad experience of venturing off to different places. But we ended up having a lot of fun finding fun things to do within the small borders of Jordan. We had some pretty weird experiences trying to make the most of the small space we were confined to. [Laughs.]
What was your biggest adventure during your time abroad?
I had one travel buddy that I went on a lot of different trips on the weekend with and stuff. We had gone as a group with our full program to the desert, and what you typically do is stay in these kind of tourist camps. They’re kind of cushy, and you have these tents and beds and stuff – I don’t know, kind of lame on a certain level. [Laughs.] But we wanted to go back and go camping and hiking with our own gear. So we were trying to figure out a way to go about doing that, and I ended up getting on the phone with this guy, who was Bedouin, and I, kind of in shaky Arabic but mostly English, told him what we wanted to do. And I was able to stay in contact with him. He picked us up in his pick-up truck on the edge of the desert and brought us in. We brought our own camping equipment and tent and we stayed out there for three days. We had the benefits of him providing us one meal per day. I ended up getting the best of both worlds. Nothing that crazy happened [on the trip], but we met a lot of interesting people – “Guest of God” was what his name translated to. He was our saving grace out there.
So did you like Jordan overall?
I certainly got an interesting perspective on the region, because it’s a place of such relative stability right now compared to the rest of the Middle East. So some people to a certain extent are very willing to talk about the unrest elsewhere, but they don’t really talk about their negative sentiments about the conditions within Jordan itself. Because there’s such unrest elsewhere, they kind of step back in those feelings and kind of prioritize stability over their own political ambitions or sentiments.
We’ve also heard that you’ve done some work with refugees. Did you do any of that in Jordan?
I didn’t. It was really difficult to get any access to the refugee camps, especially the recent influx of Syrian refugees. It’s putting a huge burden on Jordan right now, and there were a lot of people in my group who really wanted to get out there in to the camps, but the access was so difficult. But the program you mentioned was actually a Winter Study program I did my sophomore year, funded by the Gaudino fund. And that really sparked my interest in becoming more involved with the Gaudino fund because it had such a big impact on my academic interests here. It’s a program that you do a homestay for a month in Portland, Maine, which actually has a really high immigrant and refugee population. So a lot of people from Northern Africa, and more recently the Middle East, but really from all over. The program is designed to do the month homestay with an immigrant or refugee family, and also to do a work study in either teaching English to immigrants and refugees or working in health clinics that are also working with people from those populations.
Which did you do? And who was the family you were staying with?
So my family was Somali refugee family that had been resettled for a while. There were three children, and they were all really amazing, I try my best to stay in contact with them. My work study was teaching English to basically the newest people, immigrants and refugees. The people in my class had come either from the Congo, a couple other African countries or Iraq and Egypt. And they had come within the year and they were learning English.
Did you find it difficult managing the different native languages and cultural backgrounds as you were trying to teach?
Well, first of all, they had the most passion to learn English or just to learn in general that I’d ever seen, so that part of it was easy, just knowing how much they prioritized education in their lives. I had never seen students so eager to learn and eager to soak up everything that you were trying to teach them. At the same time, it was just such a difficult position to be in. I ended up realizing that though they all had different native languages, they could teach each other so much amongst themselves because they all had this common understanding of trying to learn English that I didn’t have. So when I was able to facilitate that common understanding among them, I found I was a much better teacher in more of a secondary role.
What other groups or projects are you involved in on campus?
Two semesters ago, I was really involved in Lehman Community Engagement. I’m still on the board now, but I was a co-president for a while and that was one of my favorite groups on campus to be a part of, still is. We really tried to restructure and to revive Lehman’s presence on campus. We wanted to realize the community that is beyond our campus, and realize we are part of a greater community here. I think our success as a club and the change we built as a club is entirely due to the enthusiasm of a lot of the members. It’s so cool to come back this year and see the new leaders take charge.
What types of projects does the Lehman Council typically carry out?
When we “revived” the organization, we identified that we had a lot of isolated initiatives all over campus but no easy, accessible means for students interested in service to get involved. There was something originally called, “Monthly Service Project,” but now it is called “Super Service Saturdays.” So, you can just show up one Saturday a month and get out to the community if you want to. We also run Great Day of Service in the spring, but we actually had one in the fall this year for the first time, which was a great success.
Have you been enjoying your senior year so far?
I’ve loved it! It’s definitely strange coming from abroad. I feel like I don’t know anyone anymore, especially in a place like Mission, where mostly everyone is a first-year. I would love to meet more first-years and people in general, so I wish there was more time. I feel like our class has really been bonding together more recently too, which is awesome.
That’s great. Any hopes for this year?
Well, I have one: Once you get into a school year, people stop the habit of introducing themselves. But you only have four years on a campus that, as my friend put it the other day, is essentially “a large pool of potential friends.” I am always down to meet new people, so just say hey.