Thematic Findings

These limitations notwithstanding, our data analysis indicates that the immersive experiences shaped the perspectives of a majority' of the students in at least five discernible ways. The five themes that emerged are: (a) Change in Perspective through Immersion, (b) Psycho-Emotional Response, (c) Recognition of Social Location, (d) Call to Action, and (e) Connection to Politics.

Theme 1: Change in Perspective Through Immersion

The first theme indicates how students saw things differently' because of the immersive experience. One student wrote that the Prayer Vigil “gave me a firsthand look at what many' immigrants and their families have to endure every day." Another student described how the vigil “allowed me to really live and feel [what] a family going through immigration struggles goes through.” Writing about Courtwatch and the Prayer Vigil, a student described how these experiences “opened my' eyes and made me see more than what we usually hear through the media,” while another stated, “It was nearly impossible to conceptualize all the issues and complexities associated with immigration until I had the opportunity to personally'

Faith in Action and Community Engagement 151 experience some of what is happening in the community around me.” We hope to explore this theme further to understand how the immersive experience may affect students in different ways. For some, this experience may be an altogether new reality, while for others, a quite familiar one.

Theme 2: Psycho-Emotional Responses

The second theme reveals that the immersion-learning activities provoked psycho-emotional responses in the participants. In their written reflections, students described psycho-emotional responses to the field experiences; 16 students described feelings of empathy, sympathy, or solidarity. One student wrote, “I learned first-hand of how the families of those in the process of being deported would react, and it is heartbreaking.” Another student reflected, “It hurt me that they seemed so alone in their struggle.” Another student shared, “It is my duty to stand in solidarity with the many others.” In a statement that shows the relationship between the first category of “Change in Perspective Through Immersion” and this one, a student wrote, “The thing I will never forget from these immersion trips arc the emotions and connection that runs through you.” One question we must also consider is the point at which these emotions can lead to involvement and action, or conversely, to disengagement and despair. Considering these two possibilities, what is the role and responsibility of educators in helping students to navigate such options?

 
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