The Impacts of International Service Learning Experiences on Ethnic and Cultural Identity: A Case Study of the Dominican Republic
The children of first generation immigrants to the United States often feel torn between their parents' ethnic and cultural heritage and the pressures to acculturate to an American identity. Once these children reach college age, most have firmly established either a fully Americanized identity or have accepted a bicultural perspective with strong ties to an ethnic heritage. However, these same children are typically far-removed, physically and psychologically, from the socioeconomic realities of their culture's ancestry. Often the motivation of these individuals to return, in some fashion, to their homelands is spurred by cultural curiosity, family nostalgia, and a sense of obligation grounded in the economic disparities that exist between their lives and the condition that exist in their homelands. Florida Gulf Coast University has, for the past four years, taken groups of students on one-week service learning projects to the Dominican Republic. The majority of the student participants have been of Hispanic or Latino/a descent. Their reflections prior to, during, and following the service learning project have illuminated the identity struggles that are manifest in many second generation immigrants. This paper is a preliminary discussion of some of these struggles.
Keywords: Cultural Identity, First Generation Immigrants, Service Learning
Dr. Ingrid Martinez-Rico
Assistant Professor of Spanish and German, Department of Spanish College of Arts and Sciences , Florida Gulf Coast University