El Salvador Law Immersion Program
January 1-10, 2009
I was not prepared for the flood of emotions that overcame me as soon as the trip began. I cannot emphasize enough how loving, caring, and generous the Salvadoran people were to us, everywhere we went. The entire experience put my entire life in perspective and has enlightened me regarding the legal path I might take. —Jeni Schaller
The beauty of El Salvador's people, especially with their history, is life changing. The trip has been inspiring and humbling. I just wish I could give my experience justice, but to be honest I am still processing everything. All I can say is that if you, or anyone you know, ever gets an opportunity to do a trip like this to El Salvador you MUST go! It will change you, but only for the better. —Gemma Daggs
I can't imagine another trip where you would get to meet with an ex-FMLN guerilla one day, stay overnight with a campesino family the next, and meet with the President of the Supreme Court the following day. It was an experience that is hard to describe. I am very grateful to Prof. Cynthia Mertens for providing us with a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Going to El Salvador will stay with me, and I know I have grown as a result of this experience. —Karen Crowe
It is hard to explain what happens to a person while visiting El Salvador. I could say the most obvious things; the surprise of finding a people so compassionate and warm, the sick enlightenment achieved from viewing slums and impoverished children. El Salvador to me is more about getting hit deep inside with passion, pain, fear, hope, guilt, and joy all in the span of an hour. It is a rawness of emotion and feeling that cannot be achieved in a society where email can be checked every five minutes, and the tragedies of the world stand behind $2,000 T.V. screens. El Salvador changed me, certainly for the better, and I would not trade the experience for anything. —David Reagan
It is difficult to find the words to describe my experience in El Salvador, none seem to give the experience justice. What I can say is that it was the most rewarding and interesting class I have taken in law school. By participating in the trip with Santa Clara I was able to meet many amazing individuals that without the Santa Clara affiliation I never would have had the opportunity to get to know. —Summer Krause
El Salvador is a place of tremendous dichotomies. Ever mindful of its violent past—yet equally mindful of hope for the future. Complete strangers willing to share intimate details of painful memories, while others cannot bear to tell their children the realities of Salvadoran history from the 1980's. Miles of beautiful beaches, accessed from a highway known for vehicular robberies. A Jesuit University acting as an oasis in chaotic San Salvador, yet one with a past so bloody the peaceful silence takes on new meaning. A people who have had so much taken from them who warmly open their doors and hearts expecting nothing in return.
Perhaps this is why describing the SCU Law trip has proven to be so difficult. How can one possibly begin to accurately describe such dichotomies? After giving this more thought, I came to a different realization. Perhaps describing the trip is difficult because life of the average American law student (myself included) lacks these dichotomies. The challenge I face now, is what to do with these dichotomies I've taken away from El Salvador? —Stacey Crespo
My time in El Salvador showed me firsthand the personal struggles and deplorable living conditions that Salvadorans deal with on a daily basis. After listening and speaking with Salvadorians about their struggle to endure and remain optimistic while trying to achieve a functioning democracy that can provide its citizens with opportunities, I was reminded that our freedom and wealth of opportunity here in the United States did not come without a cost. This cost was paid by many in the generations before us. My time in El Salvador emphasized not only how important it is for us as U.S. citizens to recognize and appreciate all that our country has to offer but how important it is for us as attorneys to use the rule of law to fervently protect its foundation. —Shelley Weger
In sum, the trip was incredible. For now, the purpose for my trip is unclear, perhaps I went to inspire me in my future career, or perhaps I went simply to become a better person. Whatever the long term result, for now I can say that it was definitely what I was supposed to do. With a brutal civil war in the recent past, it is amazing to see the ways in which people have coped with their losses and how the country continues to look to the future with such resilient hope. I came away from the whole experience heartbroken, and feeling helpless…yet inspired to figure out what to do with that helpless feeling. The Salvadoran people are not begging for your sympathy or pity, but if you are willing to lend an ear to hear their story it will certainly make a difference—not only to the one telling the story, but to your life as well. I know their stories touched my heart and changed my life, forever for the better. —Robin King
Caitlin Robinett '10 and one of the children on the abandoned children's side of the orphanage.
The Salvadorans are uniquely their own. They are a people unlike any I have ever met. Their warmth, love, faith, and determination is as infectious as it is obvious. It is hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it, but I got the sense that Salvadorans really look at you. I never felt like someone was greeting me with indifference and obligation. Every Salvadoran I met really looked at me, right inside of me, when they spoke. Their embraces were some of the tightest and most sincere I have ever met. The war is too recent and the government's oppression still too real for them to fully move on. But we can do something to help. We can start paying attention to the parts of the world that we neglect. We can listen to their stories and learn from our mistakes so that we can share in the motto, "nunca mas" with a people that are not so far away or different from our own. —Caitlin Robinett
Click here to view a photo album from the El Salvador 2009 immersion trip.
All photos on these pages: Daniel Murdock '09.