For most of my college career, I followed what I considered the straight and narrow path for an undocumented student: graduate in four years, finish law school, and practice as an attorney until I marry a U.S. citizen and retire in Florida like all wholesome Americans do. All jokes aside, I was happy having my life “figured out,” but during my junior year, I began to feel an inexplicable emptiness. It was during this time that I ran into Patrick Furlong. He knew about my background in service and encouraged me to apply for CASA a few days before the application was due. I told him about my undocumented status, to which he replied, “Apply anyway.” After I spoke to Patrick, I ran into my good friend, a fellow undocumented student, who told me that she too planned on applying for the program. All the signs were there, and when the universe speaks, you listen.
The journey to Argentina was a bureaucratic nightmare, but when I landed in Córdoba, I was the happiest I’d felt in a while. Perhaps I was relieved to take time away from LMU, or perhaps I was excited to travel abroad, something I had thought impossible. Either way, I knew that it felt right. In my short time there, I learned what it means to be in community: to live thoughtfully and love selflessly. I learned what it means to be uncomfortable. I learned what it means to accompany others.
There are days when my time in Argentina feels like a dream. I think about our beautiful house, our small crowded room, our dusty bus rides to Escuela Sabin—hazy images floating like distant memories. Other days I remember them more vividly, but most importantly, what remains of my time in Argentina are amistad—the friendships that I cherish—and the self-assurance that I rediscovered through them. I talk to los argentinos and feel thankful to have found a home in another culture. I see my CASA mates when we visit each other’s homes, and I am touched by their care and hospitality. CASA has given me adventure through travel, service, and love, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Genine Cumba, Loyola Marymount University, Casa attendee Spring 2016