Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
In January of 2012 I traveled to Madrid, Spain for 11 days to complete my independent research. The trip was part of a larger investigation, my senior year honor's project, which compares the lives of children of Dominican immigrants in the United States and in Spain. I am still in the process of writing my paper, but my working thesis is that given the longer immigration history and other circumstances in the U.S., second-generation Dominicans have created a "space", or a kind of acknowledged identity, for themselves in the American culture, whereas children of Dominican immigrants have not done the same within the Spanish society.
After spending all of my junior year in Spain I wanted to expand on my experiences by investigating some of the issues I had learned about while abroad. I found the topic of migration especially interesting and decided to compare Spain and the U.S. in terms of second-generation Dominicans. I chose this group specifically because I have met several people during my years at St. Lawrence who have parents from the Dominican Republic and I have always found their lives fascinating.
The problem was that I didn't personally know anyone in Spain who I could talk to about their experiences, so I decided to apply for a travel grant that would allow me to return to Spain with the objective of finding second-generation Dominicans to survey and interview. During the fall preceding my trip I created a survey and a list of interview questions asking about the participants' childhood hometown, what it was like growing up there, what their education level is in comparison to their parents' education level, and what they considered themselves to be with regard to nationality, citizenship, race and ethnicity, among other topics.
Before arriving in Madrid, I had been in contact with a few people who were going to help me find interviewees, but after I arrived it became obvious that they would not be of much help to me. This meant that during the 11 days I was there I needed to randomly find at least 10 people to interview, no matter what it took. At first I found this task to be a little daunting, but given the looming deadline, I threw myself into the project. After a few days I was walking into whatever bar, restaurant, hair salon or internet locale I could find with a Dominican flag on the sign or some other indication of the presence of Dominicans.
Later in the week I ended up talking to a Dominican guy who had come to Spain to get his university degree and ended up staying for five more years. He was very involved with the Dominican/Latino community in Madrid, so he took an interest in my project and decided to help me find more people to interview. He brought me to the Centro Hispano-Dominicano, a center that helps with the incorporation of new arrivals into the Spanish society and workforce. Almost half of the participants I talked to were his friends or acquaintances, so it was fortunate that I met him. By the end of the week I had completed my goal of interviewing at least 10 people and I felt content with what I had gotten done in such a short amount of time.
My travel research grant not only allowed me to conduct valuable research for my senior project, but it also pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to talk to people I wouldn't usually have talked to. For this I am grateful and I know that I will put the experiences and knowledge I gained from the trip to good use this semester and in the future.