Professor shares experiences with immigration

Ryan Meyer, Staff Reporter

The Academy of Lifelong Learning presented a virtual presentation and discussion with Dr. Amy Davis Tuesday afternoon.

Davis, an assistant professor of elementary literacy, shared her story as someone who was raised in a multicultural family with a father from Eastern Europe and a mother from America, and how the clashing cultures and her father’s experiences shaped her and helped her form her own values.

“My dad was an immigrant and he worked very hard his entire life. He taught me an incredible work ethic,” Davis said. “He also instilled a quest for knowledge of the world around me and to feel for others and help when possible.”

Davis noted that while she didn’t agree with her father’s traditional values, she did share a desire with him to be her own person and go against the grain, whether the grain be the invading Russian regime or some of the stereotypical views her father brought to America.

“Even though I rebelled against his ‘cultural’ views, I don’t think I was any different from who he was,” Davis said. “He left his country because he didn’t want to be under the communist regime, and I didn’t want to be defined by his culture.”

Davis said that her parents’ providing of food to undocumented immigrants in San Diego taught her generosity and sharing.

“Interestingly enough, my parents taught me that when someone is hungry, whether it be for knowledge, whether it be for food, whether it be for anything, that you give to them. If you have more than someone else, you give,” Davis said.

Her father’s background as a refugee and immigrant himself helped him form these beliefs, Davis said.

The presentation began with Davis’ interpretation of the difference between empathy and sympathy.

“Empathy is walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes, while sympathy is just feeling sorry that their feet hurt,” she said.

Personal matters can close one off from other people’s lives and prevent them from understanding others and being empathetic, Davis said.

“The idea of empathy means that we don’t just feel sorry for someone, we can actually feel and understand what they’re going through,” Davis said. “Oftentimes, we can get caught up in our own life struggles without realizing we’re being closed off to what others might be experiencing.”

She also cited the country’s political state as something that could be hindering progress in kindness and empathy.

“Sometimes in this political climate that we live in at times, I think to myself, ‘Have we forgotten that we’re human beings, and that we should be sharing what we have with others,’” Davis said.

Educating each other on the differences of others and learning to appreciate those differences can lead to empathy, Davis said.

“We need to take time to learn about other cultures. We need to take time to learn about others’ educational beliefs and gender roles,” Davis said. “Because when we take the time to learn about others, it opens a sense of willingness and care and appreciation that we appreciate that somebody is different from ourselves, and that we can embrace those differences and somehow maybe empathize with what they have had to go through in their lives.”

If there was one main point Davis wanted those in attendance to walk away with, she said it was to acknowledge the differences of others in their decision to leave their country or town for what could be a better opportunity.

“I think most importantly is I wanted participants to understand how truly fortunate we are and to understand why some leave their homes and forge a new life somewhere else,” Davis said.


Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]