Fourteen weeks and 264 hours later, I cannot believe that my time at the International Institute of New England (IINE) is over. My learning goals were to apply what I am learning in school to my work and to see if this furthered career interests. I definitely did apply what I am learning to my work. I am studying Politics and Economics and I used concepts from a variety of classes. I took The American Presidency, which helped me while teaching about currency and who is on which denomination. I took American Health Care, which helped me teach basics about health care and insurance in the US. This internship somewhat helped clarify career interests, but it also opened more interests for me. I am still interested in public policy and non-profits, but more in a management role. I am also becoming more interested in learning business skills, and I have signed up for classes accordingly.
I definitely learned more about myself in the workplace. I learned to trust myself and to become a better decision maker. I often had to make quick decisions, whether it was in a class, on a field trip, or at a meeting. In the beginning of the summer, I doubted my skills and ability to help refugees find jobs. However, I gained the confidence that I needed when I realized that I did have the experience through having jobs in the US and through growing up here. IINE hired me to teach classes and work with clients, so I realized that if the organization and my clients believed I was qualified, then I was. I became better at trusting myself to make decisions, because everything does not always go as planned.
The advice I would give to a student interested in this organization and field would be to be patient and flexible. Working at a non-profit can be frustrating due to the lack of resources. For over half the summer, the staff squeezed into classrooms at a community center while construction on a new building was delayed. At times, it was frustrating when I could not provide T passes for clients who forgot theirs during a field trip or when clients are waiting to hear back from a job interview and they really want to work. I would give the advice to be patient and flexible, because sometimes situations do not turn out the way you expect or want. Resilience is an important skill and attribute to have. Despite the importance of these skills, working at the IINE was very rewarding. I would also recommend working in Workforce Development, where I interacted with clients more than the interns in the other department. I met many people on their first day of class in America, and taught them in Cultural Orientation and the Workforce Orientation Workshop. I helped them apply for jobs, practice for interviews, and conduct follow up. I became personally invested in their lives and futures, because I wanted the refugees to succeed in their jobs, and to create a life for themselves in the US. I would recommend this internship to anyone interested in non-profits, teaching, human rights, or management. IINE gives you a lot of responsibility, which is the best way to learn and gain new skills.
This summer, I am most proud of the bonds I created with my clients. At the end of the summer, I am sad to leave because of the staff and my clients. I want to know when they get new jobs and how they are doing in their jobs. I am interested in seeing how they are doing a year from now– if they live in the same place, if they have the same job, or if they are going back to school. My clients talk about their hopes for the future with me, and I want to know how they are doing with their goals.
I loved working with the staff and other interns as well. On my last day, the office manager said I was always welcome back to work or volunteer. Being in Waltham makes the goodbye easier, since I was also told that if I am ever in Boston, I am always welcome to stop by the office to say hello. Thus, leaving was not really a goodbye and more of a “see you later,” whether it is emailing with staff, visiting the office, or volunteering in the future.
If you are interested in learning more about the current refugee crisis and the refugee resettlement process, this link from the USCRI is very helpful. If you are interested in learning about the work IINE does besides employment (which I did), here is a link to other services.
Lastly, I am so thankful to Brandeis and the WOW Fellowship for enabling me to have this amazing opportunity.
Emilie Kahn-Boesel ’18