On Friday, Sept. 28, Dr. Mirna Trauger and Dr. Ranajoy Ray-Chaudhuri held the first information session for the new Puerto Rico Muhlenberg Integrated Learning Abroad (MILA). The course is titled “The Cultural Identity and Economy of Puerto Rico” and will take place in the Spring of 2019.
This will be the first time that the MILA program has offered a trip to Puerto Rico, even in light of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last September 2017.
Hurricane Maria was a category four hurricane that struck the island, resulting in a country wide power outage, significant damage to infrastructure and a staggering death toll of 2,975 people (according to BBC). Even though Maria hit a little over a year ago, the island is still feeling the detrimental environmental and economic effects of the storm.
“We were very concerned after the hurricane hit because I had gone right before and scouted the university… and then the hurricane hit and we realized what a disastrous situation it was.”
“We were very concerned after the hurricane hit because I had gone right before and scouted the university… and then the hurricane hit and we realized what a disastrous situation it was,” said Trauger, who will be teaching the language, culture and history section of the program.
“About 300,000 people have left the island since Hurricane Maria,” added Trauger.
Fortunately, the new MILA is still a go; however, the effects of Hurricane Maria will definitely play a unique role in the new MILA, affecting both the economics and language courses.
“As a result of the Hurricane, many people have left the island, so there are significant Puerto Rican communities especially in New York and Florida,” said Ray-Chaudhuri, who will be teaching the economics portion of the MILA. “So we will definitely talk about how that has changed the politics and economics of both Puerto Rico and the United States.”
This brand new MILA will provide students with the opportunity to not only learn about the history, language, culture and economics of Puerto Rico, but will also shed light on the extra measures a small Latin American country has to undergo in order to recover from a category four hurricane.
“This will be interesting and educational in itself with what it looks like after a hurricane even a year later,” said Trauger.
Ray-Chaudhuri has been studying and researching Puerto Rico while organizing this MILA and is planning to travel to the country this December.
“This was a perfect opportunity to learn more about a part of the United States that I didn’t know much about and to freshen up on my Spanish… so a lot of little things just fell into place,” said Ray-Chaudhuri.
This MILA is also unique because Puerto Rico has a special relationship with the United States, due to the fact that it is a U.S. colony.
“It is important to recognize that Puerto Rico has an identity of its own. Yes, it is an extension of the United States, but it is not. It has a beautiful and complex identity and I am excited to have our students learn more about it,” said Trauger.
MILAs are not only a trip to a foreign country, but a significant learning experience as well.
“I think students are going to develop a new appreciation for Puerto Rico and a new complete knowledge about the history, culture, the geography and environmental issues… this will be a multi-faceted learning experience,” said Trauger.
“I think students are going to develop a new appreciation for Puerto Rico and a new complete knowledge about the history, culture, the geography, and environmental issues… this will be a multi-faceted learning experience,”
Additionally, the city of Allentown has a significant Puerto Rican community.
“The number one thing we will bring back is awareness, knowledge, and education… we will be able to have that connection with the Puerto Rican community here in Allentown, because students can then have something to at least start the conversation with,” said Trauger.