Signature project assignment: beyond boundaries  

For the signature project you will conduct oral history interview(s) of someone who has migrated to the United States. In your interview(s) you will explore with your subject why s/he/they migrated to the United States when they migrated. Why did they came to New Jersey (or NYC)? What challenges did they encountered (and/or continue to encounter) after their arrival (see below for topics that you might consider exploring in your interview). 

Consider the following questions when listening to Ifill and preparing for your own interviews:

• Where was the person born and what was their life like growing up? What do they remember about the house they lived in, the school they went to, their parents and extended families, etc. Everybody has a history before they arrive in the U.S. Moreover, their story of migration doesn’t begin when they first stepped foot in this country.

• Where did your subject migrate to? And why? It is not enough to say they came to the U.S. or New York or New Jersey. Was their migration experience part of a “chain migration”? (see Gerber for that term?) Did they have relatives or friends living in the place where they migrated to? What does your subject remember about their first days in their new community? Language? Food? Customs? Laws? Friends? What stories do they tell?

• Has your subject migrated (either within his or her home country or to another country) before coming to the United States?

• Had the immigrant been to the United States before? Did the immigrant know anybody in the United States?

• What did the immigrant know (or think they knew) about the U.S. before deciding to emigrate? How did they know? To what extent were the immigrant’s expectations met and to what extent were they not met?

• Was New York/New Jersey the immigrant’s first destination in the United States, or did they originally go to some other place?

• How did the immigrant choose New York/New Jersey as his or her destination?

• Did your subject plan to settle permanently in the United States, or for a short time, perhaps long enough to send money home? Has this changed? If it has, why?

• How did your subject make new friends after coming to the U.S.?

• Who were their first friends? Were they mostly from their home country? A neighborhood in their home country? From the region (ie, Central America?)? Or did they make mostly American friends? Can they tell stories about meeting their friends? What about stories about meeting their spouse? Where did they meet? Is their spouse from their home country? Is their spouse a recent immigrant?

• Has the immigrant learned English since coming to the United States? Or did they speak English in their home country?

• Has he or she remained active in the communities of his or her country of origin? Has he or she become active in immigrant community in the United States? How?

• Has your subject become a leader (or noteworthy follower) involved in a specific civic aim or issue (including the arts)?

• Has the immigrant become active in, e.g., a church, union, political organization, etc., in the United States?

Most important, keep in mind that this assignment is about storytelling; you are listening to your subject tell their story and then placing that story in a narrative with historical context.

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