Two service learning immersions occurred during our spring break, the Border Plunge and the Hawaii Immersion. I was lucky to be part of the Hawaii Immersion and throughout the trip I never thought about the diversity of our group or if there even was any diversity in our group.
One of the purposes of service learning immersions is to learn about social justice issues, diversity and policies about diverse issues. It is also another opportunity for students to immerse themselves in another culture and to learn about the issues other communities face. Every year there are five constant service learning immersions, Border Plunger, Service Plunge, Urban Policy Plunge, Rural Plunge, and Nicaragua Immersion. Then there are a couple of plunges that switch off and on every year, for example the Hawaii Immersion this is the first year but it will not be available for another year, then there is the Civil Rights Immersion that would be offered next year. The Service Plunge is before Orientation week for first year students, Urban Policy and Rural Plunge is for Fall break every year. Then Border Plunge is every spring break and the Nicaragua Immersion is offered every year, for three weeks in May, once University of Portland is out of school.
The purpose of the Hawaii Immersion was for students to learn about the local Hawaiian community and the issues they face and issues they have faced since becoming part of the United States and having to adapt to Western thought. As a group we traveled to Moloka’i we learned traditions like honi, and welcoming chants, and history of the island. Another purpose of the Hawaii Immersion was because University of Portland has a significant amount of students from the Pacific Islands, mainly Hawaii. So the Moreau Center wanted to create a immersion that could relate to students on campus, because the Hawaiian culture and history is not taught at University of Portland or many schools for that fact.
Throughout the trip we talked about issues that related to race and the Hawaiian culture and how it is not a topic brought up often. Majority of the students, including myself on this trip did not know much or anything about the Hawaiian history and how it became a territory and part of the United States. Most of us were ashamed of not knowing anything about the history and the little we were able to learn and cultural traditions we were able to embrace through the trip made some of us realize that the Hawaiian culture should be taught because it is very significant.
Some students on the trip shared that they were ashamed that they are from the mainland and don’t realize that majority of the Hawaiian culture is not alive the way it should be because at one time the U.S. government prohibited the locals to speak in Hawaiian and practice any rituals. By the end of trip all students were glad they were able to part of a great immersion that taught them social justice issues and policies and traditions that are still very much alive in some Hawaiian communities.