If there is one thing that I heard often before I entered graduate school and even when I arrived, it was that this experience can be an isolating, lonely one…IF I make it that way. As a result of hearing these words of wisdom from friends and mentors, I made it my business to be intentional in creating a support network while building and sustaining community on campus.
As an Emissary, responsible for recruiting diversity to the Indiana University, Bloomington graduate school, I have become much more familiar with the spaces designed specifically to expose grad students to others from the campus community who may differ in culture or background.
Just last night, I was fortunate enough to have dinner at La Casa. This Latino Cultural Center has been vibrant in the local campus community since its inception in 1973. With the rising numbers of the Latino population rapidly increasing both in terms of representation at IU and across the U.S. La Casa serves as a constant reminder of the need for others to have at least a basic grasp of Latino culture in all its complexity.
Over a free (and amazing) meal, we discussed developments for La Casa as well as the tentative future plans for a Latino Learning/Living Center. Rather than simply discussing the theoretical implications behind our ideas, we as a group were involved in a critical discussion where perspectives were asked of undergrads, graduates, and faculty. More importantly from my perspective, not everyone was Latino.
Coming from the big city of Los Angeles, it was hard to feel that I really was a part of the community. With Bloomington, both the university and the city felt like just one community, and I really felt a need to give back while I was a graduate student even if this time in grad school was just me passing through for a short time. Fortunately, it was really easy here in this particular city. Many do not know that Bloomington, Indiana, was the first city after New York City to have a municipal department dedicated to community service called the Volunteer Network.
The 67 degree weather today reminds me of how much I dislike the cold, and how ready I am for Spring and Summer to get here. One of the things that I tried for the very first time last spring and summer was to have a garden, and actually it was mostly successful. Considering that I’ve never done this before, I was really expecting not so great results. But I actually got lots of tomatoes (pictured below). Last year I rented a community garden plot (for more info, visit this link), but this year I will try to start my own in my yard. I know it’s still 2 months away, but I am already thinking about what I will plant this year!