This week, the WRD Alumni Spotlight is on Patrick Humpal. Patrick graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in WRD and minors in Catholic Studies and Public Law & Political Thought. Outside of the classroom, Patrick participated in many service, faith, and social justice organizations at DePaul such as Catholic Campus Ministries, the Vincentian Community Service Office, and The Office of Mission and Values. He is currently serving with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Santiago, Chile.
What have you been doing professionally since you earned your degree?
In December I arrived in Santiago, Chile to begin my service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), a post-grad service program with positions across the U.S. and the world. As part of my orientation for JVC, I spent my first two months in Chile basically being introduced to and learning about the incredibly rich country that is Chile. I lived with a host family for a month, helped out in a summer camp for the kids of our neighborhood, traveled to the south of Chile with some of the local youth groups on a service trip, and of course worked to master Spanish, still an ongoing process! During the last week of February I began my formal job here, working as a pastoral assistant on the ministry team in a local school.
What is a typical day “on the job” for you?
No two days have been exactly the same yet, but there definitely are some staples. Typically I spend a portion of my day preparing various prayers and reflections for the students and teachers. Another huge part of my day is spent outside of our office chatting with the students during their “recreos” (which are essentially short recesses 2-3 times a day). One of the main functions of the pastoral team is to accompany the students on a variety of retreats throughout the year, as well as to simply accompany them through their school experience. Because of this, I try and take advantage of every opportunity I can to interact with the students and slowly begin the process of forming relationships with them. Many of the students are fascinated with the blue-eyed giant that has suddenly appeared in their school. Whether it is my height, how things are in the U.S., the way things are done here in Chile, or how “gringo” my Spanish is, there is always plenty to chat about!
Besides these regular staples, I also spend a great deal of my time helping out with miscellaneous other projects wherever the ministry team could use an extra hand. I have assisted the religion teachers with class and helped decorate the school for Lent, for example. Currently I am working with the social workers on the ministry team to develop a program within the school to better support the students who are immigrants. In recent years there has been a large influx of immigrants into our neighborhood, primarily from Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. Needless to say, being an immigrant often comes with its difficulties, especially for the students from Haiti, who often arrive not knowing any Spanish. Our team is trying to figure out both how the school can systemically be more inclusive and supportive of immigrants, as well as how we can best tap into the wealth of knowledge and experiences of the immigrant students who have been here for some time.
How did your education from DePaul influence what you’re doing now?
If it were not for my Vincentian education at DePaul, I would not be here in Chile. Diving into the ways of St. Vincent DePaul and St. Louise de Marillac left a lasting impression on me. Participating in service immersion trips, weekly service in Chicago, living in the Vincent and Louise House…etc. instilled in me the importance of always asking “What must be done?” when faced with injustices, of the necessity of listening to those who come from different walks of life, and of the power of forming relationships with others. I knew that I wanted to continue to live out that Vincentian mission long after I graduated. It led me to where I am now, working and living in an under-resourced neighborhood and seeing over and over again that it has so many other riches that cannot be measured in monetary values. I continue to strive to bring these Vincentian values to my life and workplace every day.
What were the most helpful courses you took in WRD?
While at first it may not seem as though I am using my WRD degree much down here in Chile, not a day goes by without me making use of my WRD major. I cannot pinpoint one specific course, but rather general concepts that were reinforced again and again in almost every WRD course. One of those concepts is audience analysis. For the morning reflections that I write, for example, I am well aware that my audience is students anywhere from seniors in high school to 5th graders, who may or may not care about morning reflections. That being said, I try to use a variety of prompts for the reflections, such as song lyrics, poems, quotes, current news…etc. in order to interest the students and stimulate interesting conversation.
Another bit of WRD wisdom that continues to stick with me is the knowledge that words are more than just words. Every word has its own connotation and weight. For me this means that, when I say something in Spanish that may translate literally into what I would say in English, it may not carry the same weight or communicate the same connotation. I recognize that I cannot just literally translate between Spanish and English. Rather I must learn the various connotations and essences given to words here in Spanish. Keeping snippets of WRD in mind has helped me immensely in making my Spanish more Chilean and natural.
What advice would you give to a WRD student who would one day like to work in job like yours?
If you had told me during September of my senior year that I would be living and working in Chile the next year, I would have laughed and told you to stop joking around. And yet, here I am! What I learned from the journey that brought me here is to never close myself off to options, no matter how strange or off the beaten path they may seem. There are so many opportunities out there that you might not even be aware of. It just takes some searching and an openness to what you may stumble across!