Why we go to great lengths for great opportunities

By Lucy Meske

A transition from country to country can be pretty similar to that of a college freshman. I’ve realized this as I reflect back on the Tijuana maquiladora tour from a few weeks ago.

On the tour with my Ethnic Studies class, we were given insight into the past and present struggles of Tijuana factory workers. This gave us a better understanding to some of the things we learned about in class.

Many look for work across the border, where there are more opportunities for jobs and a better income. But having to adjust to a new environment brings sacrifice for a higher reward.
I have experienced this in my own major transition to USD.

As a senior in high school, the road to college seemed a long way away, with a pile of never-ending work before I could leave the nest.

First was the process of filling out college applications. Those were stressful for most, especially a procrastinator like me who submitted one the minute it was due.

In my high school career, it was four years of solid grades, participation in community service and leadership in clubs that were a huge attribute for getting into college.

Amidst the struggle of balancing AP classes, tennis and a social life, I knew it would all be for a better cause: getting into a good college. Like other kids across the country, I envisioned my life down the road when selecting my choice.

The same allure that brings millions of students to college each year brings immigrants over the border each day.

Sadly, it’s more difficult than simply walking across the border to enter the land of opportunity. The process of merely getting past the physical boundary created by the border can be extremely difficult and even dangerous.

Visas and other legal documentation for non-U.S. citizens can be both costly and difficult to acquire.

Those who are desperate enough turn to dangerous ways of crossing the border.

During the tour we drove by a mile-long row of crosses. Our tour guide pointed out that the crosses symbolize the illegal immigrants who died trying to cross the border.

According to the tour, more than 7,000 immigrants have died since 1994.

“The sight was a strong illustration of the desire to come to America, and also the risks many are willing to take,” said freshman Ashley Joshi.

Although many obstacles stand in the way toward America’s financial benefits, they are worth avoiding the working conditions and impacts of maquiladoras.

In the past, industrialization has harmed the environment and people nearby. Even in the present, working conditions are seen as unethical.

One woman we met, told us the factories didn’t even allow them to go to the bathroom and her sister developed an infection from the harsh conditions.

Another large economic reason working across the border is popular is the pay.

While minimum wage in California is $8 an hour, according to the San Diego Reader, this year the pay in Tijuana is about $5 a day.

Mexican workers who come over to the U.S. for work most often leave their families behind.

I’m sure it can be tough coming to America, having to speak a language that is not your native tongue and sacrificing seeing your family each day in order to provide for them.

This goes to show the great measures one may go for greater opportunity.

Having to adapt to a new place can be scary. For me, I chose to move to the Southern side of the west coast with high expectations of endless sunshine and a new change of scenery. I left behind my family and all my friends.

Only knowing a few people here, I leaped into situating into a new home, surrounded by strangers.

Though the physical environment is truly paradise, it can be lonely at times as well as stressful making my own decisions and difficult to keep up with college’s expectations.

I can’t imagine how it must feel crossing the border into a foreign culture, on your own and knowing absolutely no one.

Although the culture shock may be hard to accustom to, for Mexican workers, the other side of the border provides an economic opportunity that is an absolute necessity for one’s family.

College is a great economic cost for families as well. It is difficult for one to decide if they can afford, or how to afford an expensive school like USD.

Even other colleges involve some sort of risk. A lot of students I know take on a job, or have duties to uphold in a rigorous sport or ROTC in order to cut down the cost for an education here. But when it comes down to it, it is worth the cost.

“Part of the price comes with a smaller school’s strength of community,” freshman Tehya Foussat said. “I wanted to go to a school in which I would be more than a number of face in the crowd.”

As the saying goes, “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.”

We gravitate toward opportunity. College is not only full of them, but also grants many freedoms.

It’s our choice what we eat, how often we go to class and what we do in our spare time.

For those who live in Tijuana, more freedoms lie over the border: better wages and better jobs in order to provide food and money for a family.

The Tijuana tour was truly an eye-opening experience.

After a long day spent in Tijuana, I realized not only was it more than its stereotype, but also realized how blessed we are with the opportunities we are given each day.

Like those who come to America with high hopes, we too have great expectations for the future.

Whether it be from high school to college, or from one country to another one, the journey is like a roller coaster ride.

There may be some scary twists and turns, but we hope to survive with only more promising adventures ahead.