Being a foreigner, a student and a researcher in Indonesia, Debbie Patiño changed her view of life. Debbie is a senior at UIC majoring in applied psychology. In the fall of 2014 she participated in a research based study abroad program in Indonesia where she studied social justice movements within the college communities.

Debbie conducted her research in the cities Bali and Yogyakarta, and it was painfully awkward to make her way into the activist community. The Indonesians saw her as an outsider; however, with the study abroad group being composed of mostly white students, Debbie’s skin color and ethnic background differentiated her from the stereotypical American tourist. They would not refer to her as an “American” since she was not white. This gave her an opportunity to be inclusive to the Indonesian culture, but it was not easy for her either way with no knowledge of the language.  She was still an outsider, but the fact that the people would mention her as “not American” she felt that it laid a connection with the individuals.

The U.S. has an influential grip on the Indonesian society and many Indonesians have concerns about it. Debbie understood this situation once arriving. Discovering the underlining truth behind the so-called underdeveloped country and the disturbing realities of how foreign investors have disrupted the environmental stability of the city Bali with fast food corporations popping up in the downtown areas and industrial factories pumping oil. The image of a developing country cannot be seen in the sense that many would assume. A growing economy? Thriving resources? Enriching environment? Some might say it is but she knows there is some wrong. Water is the main issue that is the concern of the communities surrounding the city, because of the large tourist industry that has created large hotels. These buildings use massive amounts of water that is not evenly distributed to other communities creating a shortage in accessibility to water. This issue impacts the lives of many and is just one determinant to the cities’ disparities.

Stuck in the middle of the issue she found the social movement between the oppressed and oppressors that would guide her to the understanding of her research. She witnessed public protesting were individuals would pour dirt over themselves in heavy populated tourist areas to demonstrate the disparity of not having water to even shower. This fueled her ambition to learn more about the motives behind these actions. She was soon able to collaborate with local artists/activist and joined a mural competition were they designed their concept around the notion of what a developing country was and how western society has influenced the country. During her experiences she learned about the power of collaboration and art during her research boosting her confidence to become more involved in UIC and bring back her experiences to her peers. Helping to expand the knowledge and the importance of sustainability as a motive to be an activist or an artist.

One highlight that she remembers is the food that she ate and the taste of samba, which she describes as similar to Pico de Gallo, a Mexican salsa. She learned the recipe and manages to make it to bring back memories of the faces she met who continue to fight for the struggle of water. Debbie is a spiritual person and believes that we are all connected in every aspect and feels that in Indonesia there are certain polices that allow corporations to colonize native peoples space creating a disconnection to earth. Harming the world and even to us to an extent that many do not realize, thus she is on the mission to spread the word about being conscious.