Associated Students President Alex Hermann was part of an 11-person group of University of San Diego students and staff that went to Jamaica and participated in the Center for Community Service-Learning/Center for Awareness, Service and Action’s annual international Intersession immersion trip. Hermann, a senior Communication Studies major, provided Inside USD with a reflection of his experience.
I spent 10 days earlier this month living among a community not many honeymooners, vacationers and tourists get to experience when they travel to Jamaica. Our group lived with USD friend, Melvin “Taxa” Thompson, and his family who graciously opened up their home for us to sleep, eat and reflect throughout our trip. As I continue to reflect on my journey and attempt to apply the lessons I learned to my life in the United States, I can’t help but look back on the experience with fondness.
It is really easy to romanticize Jamaica. There was so much beauty in the people, community and environment that I sometimes forgot I was living in a Third World country. We spent many of our mornings at Duncans’ All Age School in the Special Education unit working with children as they were learning about family. Coincidence? I think so. The Jamaican community, from the youngest to the oldest, opened their arms to us and allowed us to be a part of their extended family.
Our newfound family took us to all sorts of places. Whether it was in the classroom, the farm country or the coastal communities, we were constantly learning from our surroundings and the people we met. I noticed a shift about halfway through the trip from my somewhat mindless routine in the States to a more mindful and curious energy abroad. There was intentionality and purpose behind each activity, meal, and conversation we participated in, which I think we sometimes lose in the rush of our daily lives in the U.S.
Jamaica provided me with a sense of stillness. Maybe it was the heat and humidity that made me want to be still — it was about 88 degrees every day we were there —but more likely it was the Jamaica attitude of being OK with where you’re at, who you’re with and what you’re doing. The Jamaicans brought their full selves and their whole heart everywhere they went. This inevitably meant they were late all the time. “Soon come” became our group mantra, which meant we could be back in 15 minutes or 2 hours.
This trip gave me a lot of transformative experiences that I will remember for a lifetime … my first time jet skiing, hiking down into a sinkhole, and swimming in the luminous lagoon. There is no denying we experienced the beauty of Jamaica, but the memories that I will cherish forever are with the people I met. It reminds me of a quote USD co-founder Mother Rosalie Hill once said, “If beauty attracts people, they will come and find the truth and have goodness communicated to them by the kind of people here.”
I saw the beauty, but the most wonderful part of my trip was the friendships forged and the bond I now have with a community that felt like a second home. It quells some of my fear of graduating in four months — if I can make a home in 10 days on a service immersion trip in Jamaica, I can make a home anywhere.
— Alex Hermann ‘14