What is an Immersion Experience?
Immersion experiences are 7-10 day trips to domestic and international locations where students are exposed to issues of poverty and injustice while experiencing unique cultures and environments. Students engage in direct service activities, participate in experiential learning, and make educational site visits–while living in the very communities that they are serving.
The Immersion Experience Program has four values: servant leadership, learning, community and spirituality. Program participants are invited to grow in each of these areas during the experience preparation, the trip itself, and the post-trip gatherings. Preparation meetings and post-trip meetings are considered to be of equal importance to the trip itself and are therefore required.
How does Notre Dame identify sites/locations for the immersion program?
Notre Dame work with partner organizations in each of the locations where we host Immersion Experiences. Each organization hosts immersion groups as part of their mission or organizational objectives. The partnering organizations offer facilitators who are trained in hosting groups, knowledgeable about the local culture, aware of the safety and security procedures of the locations, and in contact with others who have specialized knowledge of the region.
What are the living conditions like for each experience?
While conditions differ from immersion to immersion, in general students are asked to live simply during their experience. Participants are provided with packing list prior to the trip to ensure that they have the proper items to live simply but comfortably.
Food – Depending on the location, groups may prepare their own meals or have food prepared for them. Participants will always have simple but sufficient meals. Any special dietary needs can usually be met. An emphasis is put on experiencing the local foods and culture of the immersion location.
Lodging – Groups will stay in retreat centers, volunteer houses, or churches, depending on the immersion. Participants will generally sleep in shared rooms or dorm style sleeping spaces. Some experiences require students to bring a sleeping bag and floor mat. Group safety is always the primary concern; activities, lodging, meals, and other activities will always be planned with this in mind.
Travel – Transportation for each experience is dependent on each site. In general, groups will travel by minivan, 10 passenger van, or microbus while at their site area. Groups going to destinations more than approximately 10 hours by vehicle will travel to their site via airplane. International experiences usually require one full day of travel each way, with a connecting flight in one of the larger U.S. airports before arriving in their destination.
What commitments does an Immersion Experience participant make?
1. Complete required financial payments for the experience.
2. Participate in pre-trip meetings (all group meetings and individual group meetings).
3. Participate in post-trip activities organized by the group.
4. Actively participate in the entire immersion trip, refrain from the use of alcohol or illegal drugs and respect the judgment, of the Notre Dame staff in regards to safety and adherence to college policies.
Are seniors allowed to participate in May Immersion Experiences?
It is greatly preferred that graduating seniors do not participate in May immersions. Participants must commit to May immersions before Thanksgiving and it is very likely that seniors will not know where they will be employed or what they will be doing after graduation. Also, it is unlikely that graduating seniors will be able to participate in post-immersion gatherings. For these reasons younger students will be given preference over graduating seniors.
How much do Immersion Experiences cost?
Each trip has a different price based on the travel, lodging and programming costs. International experiences cost about $1,800. Students are required to have medical insurance for the time period of the trip. Basic travel insurance is included in the price of all international trips. All experiences have been created to provide a safe, high-quality experience for each participant. All trip prices are significantly subsidized by Notre Dame College.
How can I pay for an Immersion Experience?
Our goal is for finances not to be a major consideration when students are choosing whether or not to participate in an immersion. We want to work with students to make it as easy as possible to pay for an immersion. However, ultimately the student is responsible for complete payment of their experience by the established deadlines.
The Notre Dame Immersion Program provides fundraising training and materials. Many students fundraise the entire cost of their experience. Our most effective method has been for participants to write letters to those they have personal connections with (family, friends, former teachers, church, etc.) and ask for financial assistance. Any money raised by individuals beyond their costs can be applied to another participant who is in need. Money raised beyond the groups’ needs will be donated to agencies the group will come in contact with during their experience.
Is financial aid available?
A small amount financial aid may be available for students with significant need. To be considered for financial aid assistance, when you apply please check the appropriate box on the application. If aid is available, those placed on experience who have applied for financial aid will receive an aid offer with their experience invitation.
What are the general policies for conduct on an immersion?
The same policies that apply to students on campus are in place for immersion experiences. Students violating a College regulation or local law risk termination of their experience immediately, at the student’s expense (i.e. transportation home) or discipline through the College discipline system.
Is drinking permitted during an Immersion Experience?
No, the consumption of alcohol is not permitted during Immersion Experiences, even if a student is of legal age in the state or country the group is visiting. By refraining from drinking, students are able to focus most clearly on the experience at hand and developing positive relationships with their Notre Dame group members. Drinking can become a road block to building community between students and can hinder the relationships Notre Dame has established with its partnering agencies. Drinking can also be very dangerous in an unfamiliar city or country because it make you a target for crime or put you in other situations which are not safe.
Are there guidelines for bringing electronics? (i.e. iPods, digital cameras, etc.)
Yes. Because immersion participants will be visiting communities facing varying levels of economic poverty, participants are asked to be very conscious of what items they bring into that community. For example, in Guatemala it is possible for a student to have an electronic item that is worth more than entire monthly wage of a Guatemalan worker. In general, we ask that students not bring iPods, laptops, or other expensive electronics.
These items can detract from the experience of immersion and also often hinder the ability of the student group to develop in their sense of community. Digital cameras, video cameras, and voice recorders, depending on the destination, can be brought. However, special care and understanding is called for when taking pictures or video of our community hosts.