For Ella DiGiovanni ‘18, “Jesuit Spirit” is more than just a buzzword—it has become her “modo de vivir,” her way of life. A current junior, DiGiovanni is majoring in both sociology and peace and global studies, with a concentration in international relations in Central & South America and a minor in Spanish. To enhance her passion for her majors, DiGiovanni is spending her semester abroad studying and volunteering in Córdoba, Argentina through the CASA de la Mateada program at the Universidad Católica de Córdob (UCC).
Centered around the four pillars of “Community, Academics, Spirituality and Accompaniment,” the CASA de la Mateada program is fundamentally Jesuit. Each day, DiGiovanni “accompanies” locals at her daily field placement, known as a “Praxis Site.” These sites are local communities and barrios that struggle with various economic and social issues, including poverty, discrimination and marginalization. DiGiovanni makes clear, however, that her goal is not simply to “help.” “‘Accompaniment’ is more than simple volunteerism because it is not service-centered,” she says. “Our main purpose is not to ‘help’ anyone, but simply to be with people, to learn about their lives, their hopes, dreams and struggles.”
Every Tuesday and Wednesday, DiGiovanni makes her one and a half hour commute to Barrio Argüello, an impoverished neighborhood on the north side of the city. She spends these days working alongside Salesian Sisters who provide all sorts of services to the community, including Masses, ministry groups and after-school programs. In the morning, she lends a hand to the sisters around the house, and in the afternoon she helps students in the after-school program. While there are “times of fun and joy,” she also says “there are moments that I feel so overwhelmed by the realities of these kids. Many of them struggle with literacy and they lack proper support at home and in school.” Overall, however, DiGiovanni reflects that “the work the Sisters do is so incredible. I feel so blessed to be able to witness them in action.”
DiGiovanni has been immersed in Argentine culture not only from her hands-on experience, but from her classes as well. In addition to her “Praxis Days,” she is taking classes steeped in South American culture and Jesuit ideals, including: “Philosophy from the Periphery,” “Contemplatives in Action, Argentina: the Language, Literature, and Culture,” and “Poverty: A Global Comparative Perspective.” In one way or another, these classes all explore the meaning of poverty and cultures across borders from different perspectives, which DiGiovanni is incredibly grateful for. “This experience has allowed me to encounter, face to face, many of the concepts, events, ideologies, and cultures that I have learned about in my classes at Le Moyne.”
DiGiovanni’s day, however, is not all work and no play. When she doesn’t have a specific task for her Praxis Site, she often just enjoys playing a game of fútbol, sharing a meal or simply chatting with the locals. On the weekends, she and eight other American students serving with CASA go on an occasional adventure to explore the rest of Argentina. Her most anticipated trip is to Ushuaia, commonly referred to as “The End of the World,” since it is one of the Southern-most cities in the world and only a few thousand miles away from Antarctica.
Because of the fundamental Jesuit values that guide the program, DiGiovanni was able to receive ample help and advice from the Le Moyne Study Abroad Office to pursue this study abroad opportunity. While a lot of Le Moyne students study abroad, DiGiovanni has a deep passion for her choice to participate in the CASA de la Mateada program. “I wanted to do something different with my semester abroad, something that was better aligned with my academic interests, and something community minded and involving social justice,” DiGiovanni says. “I found the four pillars to be super congruent with my academic track and personal values, so I applied and the rest is history!”
DiGiovanni’s semester abroad is funded in part by The O’Leary International Travel Grants Program, which provides financial awards of up to $2,000 to help offset travel costs for students in Le Moyne’s College of Arts and Sciences participating in study abroad programs. This grant program is administered by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and funded by a gift from the estate of Dr. Harriet L. O’Leary, professor emerita of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
Article by Kaelin E. Foody '18.
Foody is interning with the Offices of Communications and Advancement this semester.
Peace & Global Studies