Emilia: Open your hearts and minds

I asked Emily Ruskamp, JMC grad and Encuentro Dominicano participant, to write a guest blog to share her thoughts about her experiences and wishes for our group. Here’s her message:


Emily, Rachel J., Peter, Rachel B., Amy, Gaby, Morgan, Jennifer, & Scott, and Carol, John, & Tim,

As a recent JMC graduate (it feels so odd to say that) and former Encuentro Dominicano participant, I want to wish you all the best in your studies and travels for this class.  I am so excited for you all!  Though I am currently preparing for my own adventure to Peru, a piece of my heart will always reside in the Dominican Republic. 

During my semester in the DR, we visited many of the sights that you will be visiting.  I know that your experiences will be unique from mine as you become Dominicanos in your own way (and some of you have already experienced the DR!), but I wanted to share with you a little bit about the campo community, Majagual, that you will be staying with.  I lived in Majagual for my first immersion with Comunidad 7.  When I first learned you would be visiting them, my heart twinged slightly as I imagined sharing my family with other students.  I soon realized, however, that the love they shared with me is not something to be hoarded but something to be shared.  I cannot wait to read about your own experiences in Majagual and discover more of the richness of the community through all of you.  I spent ten extraordinary days (plus many visits thereafter) with my parents, Tania and Teo, and my three younger brothers, Manuel, Noni, and Ariel (Ariel and I are pictured).  I absolutely adore them and will always think of their home as my own.  Perhaps one of you will be living with them.  Majagual is a very special community, and I have no doubt that they will embrace you with the same openness with which they embraced us.  I encourage you to welcome vulnerability as you accept their hospitality.  While you soak up the joy that exists within the community, keep your eyes open to see both the blessings and challenges that they experience. 

I cannot predict how your time in the Dominican Republic will affect you.  I can say that it had a transformative effect on my life and that it tends to have a great impact on most students, in different ways, if they are open to it.  A lifetime could not reveal all the joys and mysteries to be discovered within the people there.  Through all your apprehension, excitement, questioning, and confusion, step into the world with fresh eyes.  That’s what our profession demands, right?  All students who immerse in the everyday realities of the Dominican Republic have the responsibility to share what they’ve seen and learned with others, but as journalists you especially have a responsibility and privilege to do so.  I look forward with much excitement to your stories!

I am sure that the sights and people you encounter will make you feel joy, sadness, and anger, sometimes simultaneously.  I encourage you to have open minds and hearts in this process and let yourselves be transformed. 

I admire you for your willingness to apply your journalistic training in a way that restores dignity to some of the poorest members of our global community.  The struggle is one and we are all in it together!  You will all be in my prayers as you make this journey–feel free to swing a couple my way, as well!

Que Dios les bendiga mucho, _

Carol Zuegner

About Carol Zuegner

I am a journalism professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. I teach writing, social media, media entrepreneurship, international mass communication and I am lucky enough to be a part of Backpack Journalism. I focus on interviewing, writing and being Mama Zoogs.

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