Antonia Rijo ‘25

Antonia Rijo '25

Antonia Rijo '25

The Arrupe Program Experience

I first heard about the Arrupe International Immersion Program through my "Courage to Know" class freshman year from a TA who was traveling to El Salvador with the program in May. Having recently declared IS as my major, this program seemed extremely compatible with the subject areas that fascinated me and drew me to the IS major itself. I saw the program as an opportunity to learn about the world not from lectures and books but from the real stories of those who have lived through events, circumstances, and experiences I had and would never endure myself. 

The Arrupe program -- named after the Jesuit Pedro Arrupe, who believed that personal experiences were essential to initiating necessary changes in the world regarding the alleviation of oppression and violence -- is an international immersion program focusing on experiences of encounter. It invites students to be present in a faith-seeking global justice. Immersion locations include El Salvador, South Africa, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. Each location is paired with a specific theme which guides discussions and experiences in weekly pre-trip group meetings, and acts as the guiding focus while on the immersion trip. The themes include migration, racial justice, inequality, human rights, and sustainability.

I am a part of the group traveling to El Salvador under the theme of "Faith, Peace, and Justice." Even though we have not had our immersion experience yet, I can say that being a part of the Arrupe program is the most transformative experience I have had during my time at Boston College. For me, this program is what the Jesuit education and the International Studies major is all about. 

During weekly meetings, we have learned about El Salvador (our immersion location) in the context of its religious, political, and cultural history. We have examined how the history of the country has led to its present state. Simultaneously, we have taken a candid look at the role the United States has played in contributing to the violence and oppression that El Salvador has endured, especially in the context of the Cold War. We have engaged in fundraising activities in order to provide support for the organizations we will encounter during our stay in El Salvador. We have learned about Saint Oscar Romero and how the transformation of his life toward empathy and service to others has transformed the lives of many Salvadorians. 

Learning about Oscar Romero as well as others who put their lives at stake in order to seek justice and peace in El Salvador inspires me with a strong desire to translate my learning into action. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to listen to the stories of people in El Salvador first-hand and be able to engage in dialogue with them so that we might reach a deeper understanding of each other and therefore a deeper understanding of how we can be mutual pillars of support and strength for each other. 

The community that one gains through Arrupe is, to me, one of the most invaluable aspects of this program. Our weekly Monday night meetings give me the opportunity to start every week with a grounded, peaceful mindset because, at every meeting, I am able to experience incredible moments of reflection. I have found a powerfully supportive and loving community within my Arrupe group where I feel comfortable being vulnerable and honest. My Arrupe community allows me to feel seen and heard, and I am constantly amazed by the strength, resilience, and contemplation that my group brings to every meeting. I am learning and growing because of the people in my Arrupe community, and I could not imagine my sophomore year experience without them. 

Arrupe is an experience of transformation. It is a program which challenges you to grow, act, and think with intention for others and yourself. From the people you meet and the discussions you have, Arrupe brings you intimately close to the understanding that from every one act— from every declaration of war, every treaty signed, every speech made— there are hundreds of thousands of stories and experiences born. Hearing some of these stories and knowing some of these experiences can change the way you see your world, your country, your community, and yourself. Arrupe is an invitation. A beginning. An embrace. For growth, for love, for challenge, for transformation. 

I can’t wait for our immersion trip to El Salvador this coming January. 

Antonia Rijo '25
November 2022