Among the many ways to measure the human toll of Hurricane Maria there is this: Since the storm more than 32-thousand college students have left the island. That estimate from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College captures the upheaval in young people’s lives as well as the loss to the island of the bright young stars who might have contributed to Puerto Rico’s recovery.
After the storm dozens of colleges and universities on the U.S. mainland offered free or reduced tuition to Puerto Rican students. Many leapt at the chance to realize a dream of leaving the island to continue their studies. Others quit school altogether to work or join the U.S. military. Regardless of where they ended up, displaced students express mixed emotions about their new lives. The excitement of embarking on a new adventure is often tempered by worry about their friends and family still on the island and guilt over abandoning their home in the midst of a crisis.
Last fall Feet in 2 Worlds began working with journalism students at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, in San Juan, PR under the direction of Professor Lillian Agosto Maldonado. She invited her students to write profiles of fellow students, asking them to focus on their experiences, the challenges they faced, and their decision to stay on the mainland or return to the island.
Their stories offer a window into young people’s lives upended by the storm.
The majority of these profiles were originally written in Spanish and translated into English by John Pink. Three students, William Gomez Aquino, Barbara Becerra Marcano and Salome Ramirez Vargas did their own English translation.
Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, an anonymous donor and readers like you.