A Lesson on Family Migration History

How a course on stories of migration revealed a deeper connection between a student and her grandmother

Born and raised in Venezuela, Sara Pan Algarra’s idea of home has always been her family.

Even after leaving Venezuela for two years on a scholarship with UWC Mahindra College in India at age 17, Pan Algarra said, “I’ve always felt like I had a clear definition of home.”

That’s until she took a core colloquia course at NYU Abu Dhabi called Migration: 20th and 21st Century Stories and Images with Professor Catherine Coray.

Through an exploration of various medium like films, books, and group discussions, the class examines the concept of the immigrant journey, giving students the opportunity to talk about their own stories of migration.

Sara Pan Algarra, NYUAD Class of 2020, in Mahindra, India.

Not Everyone Relates to the Idea of Home

In class, everyone shared intimate stories of their own journey, and this NYUAD Class of 2020 student learned just how different her idea of home is to her classmates. Understanding that some people do not relate to the idea of home is one of the big learnings from this course, she said.

I took home for granted.

Sara Pan Algarra, Class of 2020

Despite the current economic crisis in Venezuela, Pan Algarra was never displaced or forced to leave her country. Yet it was a different story for the parents of a Sudanese classmate who had fled their home country during the civil war in Sudan.

From Spain to Venezuela, With Love

As part of the course, Pan Algarra had the opportunity to write a monologue about her grandmother’s immigration story. As a 20-year-old, Chiruca García left Galicia, Spain in 1954 during President Franco’s dictatorship, and made her way to Venezuela. In search for a better life, García’s hope was packed in a suitcase full of memories, love, faith, and dreams.

Shortly after arriving in Venezuela, she fell in love with a man named Pepe Pan who had also left Spain with similar aspirations. It turned out that Pan is also from Galicia, and had been living all his life in a neighboring town that was close to García’s.

“I never took the time to really engage in a conversation with my grandmother about her story of migration from Spain to Venezuela,” said Pan Algarra. “Despite everything she’s gone through, she’s so positive. I look up to her alot.”


This class made me realize that my identity is also a product of a migration journey.

Sara Pan Algarra

Home and its Relevance in Today’s World

Students of this class come from all corners of the world, and some were migrants at one point in their lives. Their shared personal stories of displacements added realness to today’s context where newsfeeds are frequently filled with stories of forced migration, refugee crises, and topics of xenophobia. Many tears were shed over class discussions, said Pan Algarra.

“This is a class I took in my first semester, and sometimes when people ask me why I had chosen this university, I talk about this class. It genuinely reflects what to me are the core values of our university’s mission,” Pan Algarra concluded.

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