What is the Casa Bayanihan program? Drop by University Ministry (or email firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more!
Casa Bayanihan is a study abroad program in which students from different colleges throughout the country travel to the Philippines to study at the Ateneo University and immerse themselves in a world completely different from the one they know. Three days out of the school week, students take classes at the University. The other two they spend getting to know families in small communities called “praxis sites.” The knowledge these students gain from their classes, combined with the wisdom gained from their interactions at the praxis sites helps them form strong bonds with each other and the families – becoming an unbreakable community.
Lauryn Gregorio, a current sophomore at USF, participated in Casa Bayanihan in the spring of her Freshman year, 2012. Below, Lauryn talks about her semester-long journey in the Philippines and how it impacted her worldview.
Nina Ragonese: Choosing to go to a third world country to study abroad is definitely a tough decision to make when you have so many other options. How did you know that going to the Philippines would be right for you?
Lauryn Gregorio: That’s a really good question. I came to USF wanting an education that allowed me to engage the world in some way, engage in what’s really going on. And that’s part of why I came to USF; social justice is a big thing here. I had the desire to immerse myself in what’s going on in the world through my education. Freshman year I heard about the opportunity to go to the Philippines and it seemed like the program was exactly what I was looking for. It was described as having a strong sense of community, spirituality, and genuine contact with people who are living in poverty in third world countries. It wasn’t a totally rational decision but it just felt right.
Nina: On the academic side of the program, how did the classes work out with your major, and is the program directed only towards specific majors?
Lauryn: People of any major can go. The classes are all focused on various aspects of the reality of the Philippines and the lives of the people in our Praxis sites. I took a class in Philippine politics, a class in Gender and Women’s Empowerment. There was also a language class, which was helpful to learn how to communicate in Tagalog a bit. The final class was a Theology class on Suffering, Solidarity, and God that allowed me to reflect on what was moving in my heart during my time there. We discussed how we confront the reality of the world in community, faith, and hope. I’m a Theology/Religious Studies major but there were some students who were Business majors who got classes to count for core classes or electives. But even if not all the classes count toward a major this program is such a learning experience that can’t really be measured by transcripts or grades.
Nina: I’m sure you learned a lot during your time there. If it’s possible, could you briefly describe yourself before and after Casa?
Lauryn: Something we talked about in our Theology and Philosophy class is vocation, discernment, and how it’s really a process to decide what we are called to give our lives to. It’s a culmination of my hopes and dreams but also what makes a claim on me as I get to know what’s going on in the world. I’ve become more relaxed about the whole “figure out what I’m going to do with my life” thing because I’ve realized it’s a process and a lot of it has to do with who I am and what I allow myself to fall in love with. I love that Pedro Arrupe quote – “…fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” I definitely fell in love with the Philippines and the people I knew there but also with this model of accompaniment and looking at the world as something we get to know so we can love it and give whatever we have.
Nina: What is the word tattooed on your wrist?
Lauryn: I actually just got this tattoo on Wednesday. It was the one-year anniversary of the first day of being in the Philippines. The word is Kapwa, and that’s this really beautiful Tagalog word. There isn’t really an English translation because in the United States we’re not really good at Kapwa, which is community, shared identity, and togetherness and the sense that who I am isn’t just who I am – it’s who I am in relation to other people. We are individuals, but we find who we are in the greater context of the community and the world. So this tattoo reminds me every day of how transformative that time was. It’s also how I seek to move forward after Casa. It will motivate everything I do.
Nina: You said we’re not good at Kapwa here in the United States. Is that frustrating for you after having lived in such a strong community for a semester?
Lauryn: Yeah it is. Casa does community really well with the Praxis sites but also community among students and with the teachers, staff members, and directors. I really thrived in that sense of community. I feel like Kapwa, that shared identity, is sort of how we’re meant to be as people and how we come together. So it’s often hard to be back in the US where we’re not really taught how to live in community. We’re taught how to be assertive and chase after our own dreams. But we really need community because often those dreams and ambitions are great, but have to be a response to the world and what’s going on. I feel frustrated sometimes but I do have a lot of hope because I know there are a ton of groups, especially here at USF, working together to build that community. It’s not the same as in Casa but it’s still there.
Nina: An easier question – would you recommend this program to anyone?
Lauryn: Yes. Whoever you are, whatever you’re studying, I don’t care. Just go to Casa. It is a big thing. It’s a commitment and an intense four months so talk to people and make sure it’s a good fit. But people should just know that you could never be 100% sure about going. Part of it is a big risk but part is also saying yes to that unknown.
For more information about Casa Bayanihan, visit the Santa Clara website at http://www.scu.edu/casa/bayanihan/ or contact Father Mark Ravizza at email@example.com.