SGPIA alum Alexandra Vasquez was two weeks deep into a summer-long housing development project with the International Field Program (IFP) in Colombia when she realized she wanted to return to the country one day to live and work more extensively. Alexandra’s goal will soon become a reality; she recently accepted the 2016-2017 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Colombia.
Alexandra, who graduated in January 2016, spent last summer in Colombia’s mountainous town of Pácora, where she collaborated with six other IFP students and Professor Chris London to ease the housing transition of local residents who had recently won a lottery to live in a new housing development built in Pácora. The project stemmed from a national policy designed to address a housing shortage for low income citizens in Colombia.
The IFP team conducted workshops with local community members on peaceful cohabitation in apartment buildings, and used comments from participants to produce a workshop manual for community leaders on establishing communal ties among residents. To ensure the project met the community’s needs and interests, the IFP team used knowledge and skills from a set of Practicum Analysis courses c0-taught by Professors Chris London and Mark Johnson.
“It is crucial to stay open to what people want and need, and be realistic to what can actually take place in the time you have,” Alexandra states regarding development work. “It’s not a one-time deal; you must always reflect on what you are doing and what is happening around you.”
“I want to learn about Colombian movement as well and the possibilities that can
arise if it is all combined,” Alexandra explains. “That is the goal of the Fulbright—to look for ways we can create mutual exchange between Americans and people from other countries.”Alexandra says she will apply similar principles to her role as an English Teaching Assistant at the Universidad Colegio Mayor Cundimarca in Bogotá, where she will begin the Fulbright grant this August. The position also involves work on a community social project in which Alexandra aims to incorporate her passion for hip-hop dance to facilitate a cultural dance exchange program with local youth.
Alexandra’s background and experiences leave her well prepared for such cultural exchange. Her family is originally from the Dominican Republic, which has led her to become well familiar with the history and development of countries throughout Latin America. In her last semester of SGPIA last fall, she decided to supplement her studies of international affairs with a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She has since taught English classes to immigrant adults living in Brooklyn and the South Bronx.
Alexandra states that what she loves most about teaching English is the opportunity it gives to create a community within the classroom. “I am so excited to meet my students in Bogotá,” she adds.