The MSN program in Mexico was everything I was looking for and more. I wanted to learn more about social movements and organizing in the US, Mexico and globally as well as develop a better understanding of my position in the world as someone wanting to make change. The program shared my values and ideals and encouraged learning and solidarity with communities in Mexico rather then white saviorism and charity. I could not have chosen better.
MSN filled a gaping hole in my education. In college I learned how to analyze and critique the system but I had no sense of how to change it. Coming out of the program, I feel an unprecedented sense of purpose, clarity and direction.
The MSN program was an amazing opportunity for me to share with 13 other students from around the country. We spent four weeks in Chiapas, Mexico studying, working, traveling to hear lectures (on militarization and what it means to reclaim the land), and sharing and singing songs of solidarity – all while living with one of Mexico’s most important social movements, the Zapatistas. We spent four hours twice a week studying, discussing and debating issues like neo-liberalism, globalization, non-violence, the connection of wages and production, democracy, race, class, and gender, as well as what it means to share “space and place” with social justice movements in response to “Bad Government”. Put all this in the context of working the land, local music, and culture and you have the making of new radicals, resisters, and revolutionaries for social justice.
I spent one month during the summer in a Caracol Zapatista, and it was one of the most moving experiences in my life. It was an intellectual and personal challenge, and every single activity was a learning one, from working at the milpa to the movies and the lectures. The people I met, both people from the program and the compañeros in Chiapas, where the highlight of the entire experience. It is impossible to go and not be transformed by the experience.
My semester with MSN was a life-affirming experience that touched on many aspects of my life. I was exposed to this deep side of Mexico, México profundo and met some of the most influential organic intellectuals that I would’ve never thought of. Mas que todo, la gente que conoci en México made me realize that el conocimiento is based on lived experiences. This type of knowledge advocates for “theory in the flesh” by connecting lived experiences with social activism. I’ve realized that knowledge is not necessarily rooted in what people write about, but in what people do for a living because that speaks way more than academic theories.
MSN’s study-abroad program is a unique and impactful learning experience. It was always a childhood dream of mine to visit Chiapas and spend time in Zapatista territory and the program made that possible, and much more. The program has taught me how to be more strategic and principled about my work as an organizer and agent of change, and have given a strong theoretical grounding to the practices I bring into my activism. MSN exposes students to the possibility of a different way of seeing the world and doing things through the example of the Zapatista’s autonomous government in Chiapas, the Pancho’s urban housing projects i Mexico City, and CNUC’s land defense and resistance to neoliberalism in the state of Tlaxcala. Living in Mexico also gave me the opportunity to also have a greater understanding of my roots, my culture, and my identity as a person who was born in Mexico and raised in the United States. The popular-education model used is exciting. engaging and a good example of actively using the lessons the program teaches, and the experience of living with people involved with organizations like CNUC and the FPFVI is an indispensable gift and learning opportunity in itself for people who wish to learn from people’s lived experience in engaging in the struggle for a better world.
My semester abroad with MSN was a life changing experience. We shared space and learned from companerxs involved in some of the most powerful social movements in Mexico. We learned about autonomy in Chiapas from the Zapatistas, land resistance with CNUC in Tlaxcala, and urban land and housing issues from los Panchos in Mexico City. The lessons gained in working and learning from these social actors were deeply moving. No other program provides you with such a unique and intimate experience where learning is organic, non-hierarchical, and deeply conscious. What you learn through the program instills a sense of commitment towards justice wherever you go.
If you are looking for something other than the typical study abroad experience, and you have an interest in fighting for social justice, go with MSN to Mexico. No other program will allow you to experience a living social movement the way that this one does. There are invaluable lessons to be learned from the movements in Mexico for those who are trying to build consciousness in the US. I went to Mexico for a semester, and living with the Zapatistas, CNUC and Los Panchos had a huge impact on my political life and my personal growth. The friendships that a gained are also incredibly important to me. I became very close with my companer@s and am grateful that I had the opportunity to connect with other students who share similar interests and values. And if you decide to go, I highly suggest that you opt for the program extension in Chicago!
The MSN semester long program completely changed my attitude towards academia and towards organizing. My inarticulate, half-formed ideas about the kind of world I want to create and the organizing I want do changed into genuine convictions and tangible action. I came on the program because I wanted to be held accountable for my privilege and for the way I act while traveling. I left the program with so much more than that–I came away with a deeper commitment to social justice, with a desire to listen more and talk less, and with a network of excellent friends and organizers all across the country. The other students I met on this program were incredibly amazing people–thoughtful, intelligent, insightful, kind, caring, inspiring, and fantastic organizers. The people I met in Mexico were also incredible–they were very kind to me, were part of incredibly inspiring and important social movements, treated me like family, and gave me so much faith in the power of global connection, both in general and for organizing. In terms of travel, I felt really good on the program because I was held accountable to not being a “tourist” in a traditional, consumptive, ultimately oppressive way, but I still saw beautiful things all over Mexico. This is such a different experience from most study abroad programs–you don’t just “have fun”, you become a more thoughtful, committed, connected person.
I loved being a part of the study abroad trip through MSN! Deciding what program to go on was a really tough decision, and I do not regret picking MSN. I got to have an incredible bonding experience with my fellow students, which I think is beneficial because now we are all connected across the country, despite the fact that we may be involved in different movements and attend different schools. Of course the best part was having the opportunity to live with and learn from los Zapatistas in Oventik, CNUC in Tlaxcala, and ‘los Panchos’ in Mexico City. Each of these experiences led me to meet people I would never have met otherwise, and while leaving each place is hard, you know that you will always be welcome back with open arms. I have found that I reflect a lot on my experiences from that semester, and it has led me to a deeper understanding of forces that connect people in the US and people in Mexico, and the incredible strength that movements for social justice have in understanding one another’s struggles. Another world is possible with MSN!
My time spent with MSN in Mexico was hands down the most influential educational experience of my life. MSN and the movements we interacted with exemplified the importance of praxis in both our education and daily lives. Through this engaged model of autonomous popular education I and my peers were able to grow in indescribable ways. From understanding the struggles against neoliberalism to understanding identity politics and learning how to create cohesive group dynamics, my experiences with MSN was truly mind altering and life changing.
It would be hard for me to overstate the effects that my semester with MSN had on me. It has made me a better learner, student, friend, and activist. The analytical and communication skills that I developed throughout the semester have stuck with me and I use them every day.
My summer experience in Chiapas was deeply impactful. The discussions of US/Mexican relations and the powerful lessons of the Zapatista Movement gave me a different perspective on international relations and the discussions that lack in the classroom. The people I met and the interaction with those in the continued struggle energized me to continue my work for social justice in my community and paved the road for continuous empowerment of self and others.