Click here to view the Powerpoint presentation shared at this event.

Navigating Mexico’s Educational Landscape: Dr. Umansky Uncovers the Challenges and Strengths of Transnational Students

The Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) hosted a thought-provoking research presentation by Dr. Ilana Umansky that shed light on the complex educational journeys of transnational students in Mexico, revealing the challenges they face and the systemic hurdles that shape their experiences. Her study explored the schooling experiences of students who travel back and forth between the US and Mexico with their families, the complexities of their transnational identities, and the role of school administrators in shaping their educational journey. Here are some key takeaways from Dr. Umansky’s presentation:

  • There are an estimated 500,000 US-born students in Mexico, and Waka is a primary destination for indigenous return migration. 
  • The research focuses on seven schools across three indigenous communities in Waka
  • Indigenous communities in Waka are small and linguistically diverse, with over a third of residents speaking an indigenous language such as Mayan, Nahuatl, Mixtec, and Zapotec 
  • Spanish dominates in schools despite students’ diverse language profiles, potentially marginalizing indigenous languages and cultures
  • Transnational students face insurmountable challenges, from language and culture barriers, to family separation, and navigating a rigid education system without support
  • Well-intentioned policies fail to implement effectively, condemning these students to limited access to education and support.
  • School administrators and English teachers hold the power to shape student experiences, despite limited resources.
  • Education is the key to unlocking transnational students’ integration into Mexican society, serving as a hub for socialization, language development, and cultural adaptation. 

Conclusion: Dr. Umansky’s research on transnational students’ educational experiences in Mexico reveals the intricate interplay between education, identity, and social structures. The findings highlight the need to address systemic hurdles, prioritize inclusive practices, and support key players in creating welcoming educational environments. As Mexico continues to host transnational students, Umansky’s research serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of placing student needs and inclusive pedagogy at the heart of education policies.

Why Families Migrate Back and Forth

There are several reasons why families travel back and forth between the US and Mexico. Some of the reasons mentioned in the presentation include:

1. Family reunification: Families may travel back and forth to visit relatives or reunite with family members who live in both countries.
2. Economic need: Some families may travel to the US for work or economic opportunities, while others may return to Mexico due to economic necessity.
3. Deportation: In some cases, families may be forced to return to Mexico due to deportation.
4. Cultural ties: Families may maintain strong cultural ties to both countries and travel back and forth to maintain these connections.
5. Education: Some families may travel to the US for educational opportunities, while others may return to Mexico for educational purposes.