Daniel McElroy: The triumphs and pitfalls of arranging a month-long research trip

route between California and Texas

The bulk of my research begins later this week, as I embark on a three-week and four thousand-mile journey driving from San Francisco (home!) to Austin. I will be stopping in cities and border towns along the way and meeting with various organizations and individuals who are involved with every aspect of immigrants’ rights. The month of August promises to be enlightening and exciting, but getting to the point where that’s the case has been difficult to say the least.

With the prospect of such an undertaking hanging over me and a ticking clock, I’ve spent the month of July in my Brooklyn apartment trying to make sure that my behemoth road trip will not be a waste of time and energy. This has meant literally hundreds of emails—and several phone calls—as well as endless Googling as I’ve tried to ensure that no stone remains unturned. Along the way I’ve made several important discoveries:

  1. There are so many wonderful groups of people doing myriad diverse things to advocate for the rights of migrants and to provide services to this group that encountering all of them would be impossible, and I suppose that’s a good thing!
  2. It seems that conducting effective research requires considerable resilience; after going through intensive research protocols to prove the value of my research to several organizations, a couple of them got back to me saying that my research sounded valuable and interesting but that unfortunately they didn’t accept undergraduate researchers. Bouncing back was difficult but necessary.
  3. Often, one things leads to another. Over half of the places I will be visiting came to my knowledge as a result of other connections I had already made. This kind of interconnectedness within the community of activists I’m entering is incredibly inspiring.
  4. Emailing gets extremely boring, but it’s important legwork that you have to do to make the hands on part of your research worth its weight. And finally, I’m done and ready to jump into my trip head-on.

More to come soon from the road!

My route across the Southwest will take me through four states and over 4000 miles of driving!
My route across the Southwest will take me through four states and over 4000 miles of driving!

2 thoughts on “Daniel McElroy: The triumphs and pitfalls of arranging a month-long research trip

  1. Can’t wait to hear about your incredible adventure to come! It can definitely be frustrating to see the vast number of resources that pertain to your area of interest and know that you don’t have the time to immerse yourself in each and every one. However, as someone who always attempts to cover ALL the bases, and learns time and time again that this is not always possible, revel in those that you are able to connect with, for your unique trajectory will shape a truly individualized path of research that will offer insight in a completely new and exciting way.

  2. This project sounds so interesting! I can’t wait to follow along. Similarly I found planning the travel logistics for my research project very difficult and hard to organize. However it all worked out so I hope that gives you some peace of mind! I also have a real passion for immigrants rights and look forward to seeing what you find. Like you say, that’s great that there are too many organizations working on the issue to visit them all. Safe travels and best of luck on your research!

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