COVID-19 Pandemic, Social Tension Inspires W&J Student to Make A Difference

Created: October 29, 2020
Last Updated: October 29, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Oct. 29, 2020)— When the global pandemic hit, and with immigration and the struggles those seeking asylum experience weighing heavy on her mind, Clara Sherwood ’22 found herself feeling restless with the tension.

The globally minded Washington & Jefferson College junior wanted to find a way that she could contribute to easing those tensions for herself and others. She found an outlet in starting her own website, Migrating Stories, an oral history project with the goal of promoting an understanding of difficulties migrants, immigrants, and refugees face.

Two of her experiences at W&J led to stories that became the foundation of Migrating Stories. During a trip to Morocco and Spain as part of her Magellan Project, Clara met immigrants and refugees and shared their stories in the blog that accompanied her project. On another W&J-sponsored trip with Dr. Buba Misawa to Senegal and the Gambia, she met a community of Indian immigrants in North Africa, interviewed a man from the community and documented his story.

Over the past few months, the project has grown extensively. Clara has connected with immigrants from around the world via social media and has even highlighted members of the W&J community. The experience has been eye-opening.

“People told me that the website was was beneficial and helped them gain insight into migrant and refugee experiences, so I continued reaching out to more people I knew. The experience that really motivated me to go was speaking with Raneen Nassar—she told me this incredible story about coming to the U.S. from Egypt, and she had to put herself into foster care,” Clara said. “After we talked, she said, ‘Thank you for taking interest in this part of who I am. No one has ever asked me about this experience.’ To know I validated her story and her history is really moving to me.”

Clara’s work doesn’t stop there; this semester, she also secured an internship with the U.S. Embassy to Libya through the Virtual Students Federal Service (VSFS) site with guidance from Dr. Misawa. She will present a seminar on music diplomacy alongside a concert selection of jazz songs she will perform herself this November.

She attributes much of the opportunity she’s encountered to the support of her professors and coaches at W&J in addition to the programs in place that make the College unique.

“I’ve been able to travel a lot with W&J, and that’s a big reason why I came to the College,” she said. “I was looking at a lot of liberal arts colleges, but W&J had the Magellan Project, and I couldn’t find anywhere else that offered a program that would support me completing an independent project anywhere in the world.”

Clara will be featured as a guest writer on the W&J website in the coming weeks. Look out for guest posts from Migrating Stories in the W&J News section.

In addition to her personal projects, Clara helped to bring the lecture series “Refugee Voices” to W&J. Read more about her efforts to bring the series to campus.

About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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