Final Reflections on my Internship at IINE

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.

Relaxing on Free Fun Friday at the Arnold Arboretum

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.

After our field trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History

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

Midpoint Reflections at IIB

It’s hard to believe that I am more than halfway done with my internship. I started my role the day after I finished finals, and I have exactly one month left at the International Institute of Boston (IBB). When I arrived at IIB, I was somewhat overwhelmed with program acronyms and the names of services offered. Now, I’m at a point where new staff are shadowing me in my work. There is a new Employment Specialist, and she often comes to me with questions about clients and programs. I still love the work I do as well as my increasing responsibilities. Surprisingly, a big boost in confidence actually came when my supervisor left the organization. I was worried that I would be left with many questions and feeling somewhat directionless, however, I have just become more self-directed. I am confident in my ability to direct clients who need help looking for jobs, proactively reaching out to clients by phone, filing reports, and running the Cultural Orientation Program or the Workforce Orientation Workshop. When one client told me he got his Social Security number on Friday, after class on Monday, I scheduled an appointment with him to apply for jobs on Wednesday. I now have a better list in my mind of which companies our clients succeed at and which clients and companies make for a good fit.

My view from a table where I often meet with clients in our temporary space
My view from a table where I often meet with clients in our temporary space

The world of work is different from university and academic life, but I have applied university and academic life to my internship. I love my work because I am a hands-on learner. I learn best from experience, and I think I will learn more skills from having an internship than from sitting in a classroom. Some skills I have built relate to problem solving, communication, flexibility, patience, resilience, teaching, language, and even technology. I have worked at the front desk directing phone calls that I did not know how to answer. I have worked with another intern to create a status report of certain clients neither of us had ever worked with. I have had to figure out how to teach people who do not speak English or French. Resilience is a major skill I have built, and it has helped me problem solve and be patient. I have also learned the importance of communication. These skills are all transferable to my future – academically, professionally, and personally. I see academics as a way to learn information, have discussions, ask questions, and gain interests. I have used knowledge from my Politics and Economics classes, and I have applied experience as a Waltham Group coordinator and Teaching Assistant at Lemberg.

Free Fun Friday at the Edward Kennedy Institute. Sylvia (other intern I teach with, pictured here) and I decided to tour the clients around ourselves, because we could more effectively explain US government and history than the official tour guides, as we catered to their English levels and related the material to their refugee status.

It has sometimes been hard to work in a temporary space so I look forward to moving into our brand new building in early August. I am also excited to take the refugees on more Free Fun Friday trips, and to go to many of the places I have been to while growing up near Boston. I am also enjoying the Olympics games which for the first time has a Refugee Olympic Team. This team is different from the Independent Olympic Athletes. The Olympic committee states that “Ten refugee athletes will act as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis when they take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016 this summer.” I think having a team of refugees is important because it shows how the international community can respond positively to the current European migrant crisis and the Syrian Civil War by allowing these athletes to compete in the biggest sports event in the world, despite the fact that they cannot be in their home country. I know I will be watching and thinking of what my clients have gone through and left behind before starting a new life in Boston. In my last month, I hope to use all the skills (and Spanish) I have learned, and to think more what kind of work I want to do in the future.

Emilie Kahn-Boesel ’18

Working with Refugees on the Path to Employment at IIB

I have so much to reflect upon about the beginning of my summer as a Workforce Development intern at the International Institute of Boston (IIB). IIB is a refugee resettlement agency, with two other locations, in Lowell, MA and Manchester, NH. When a refugee (or asylee, Cuban/Haitian entrant, or Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa recipient) is resettled in Boston, they are enrolled in Case Management, Employment Services, and English classes. I work with Employment Services. You can read IIB’s mission on their website, but to explain it in my own words, I will describe my job as a Workforce Development intern.


This summer, IIB is in a temporary location, since their new building is under construction. Their interim space is now with the Asian American Civic Association (AACA), another non-profit with a goal of developing the workforce and promoting economic self-sufficiency.

My walk to AACA in Chinatown.
My walk to AACA in Chinatown.

I do many different projects and tasks with Employment Services. I create resumes for clients and then meet with them to review. I apply for jobs for clients after knowing their preferred positions and locations– the positions are mostly entry level, but the jobs vary on the English level of the client. I make retention calls to clients after they get jobs, and update the records, which is important for IIB to track how clients are doing in their jobs. Clients are enrolled in CRES or TAG, and both are funded by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and you can read about them here. Something I did not expect was the amount of French I would be speaking (I took French from 6th-12th grade). I am often assigned to meet with Haitians with low-English literacy because I can translate material.

A big part of my job is teaching. On Mondays, I teach the Cultural Orientation Program (COP). New clients are enrolled in COP which runs for four weeks. This class covers living in the US, rights/ laws, education, personal finance, government, health/ hygiene, and sex ed. I never thought about these aspects of life in the US since I grew up here, but many of the clients come from countries where there are different cultural norms and expectations.I never pictured myself teaching consent to a group of young men from Somalia, but this internship always surpasses expectations.

On Fridays, another intern, Sylvia, and I lead the COP trip. Examples of the trips include the Freedom Trail, Boston Public Library, Harvard Square, and the State House. Also on Fridays, Sylvia and I teach the Workforce Orientation Workshop (coincidentally, another WOW acronym) to the same students in COP. After the trip, we give the students a break, and we prepare for the afternoon class, which also runs for four weeks. This class covers getting a job in the US, job etiquette and workplace standards, interview skills, and personal finance/ budgeting/ taxes. This class is a great way for people to learn about jobs they may have in the US, and how to apply and interview for them. It is difficult to find a job in a new country where you may not speak the language well, do not have professional references or a career network, and do not have an equivalent degree in the US to one you may have earned in your home country.

COP trip to the State House. IIB often requests this guide, Brian, who adjusts the tour for people who are new to the country and who may have low levels of English proficiency.
COP trip to the State House. IIB often requests this guide, Brian, who adjusts the tour for people who are new to the country and may have low levels of English proficiency.

My main goals for this summer were to see how this furthered my career interests and to apply what I am studying in school to my work. For my career interests, I have become more interested in non-profit management. For my academic goal, I have seen how my studies apply to my internship. I have been able to apply Politics and Economics classes, as well as certain classes like American Health Care. When I am teaching US policies, laws, and personal finance, I want to think more about what I have learned at Brandeis, and how it can help refugees who are assimilating to American social, political, and economic life.

I have already seen how rewarding the work can be– two brothers were recently resettled in Boston and enrolled in programs at IIB. From teaching them in COP and WOW, I could see how determined they were to get jobs. They were excited the day they received Social Security cards, which meant I could help them apply for jobs. I helped them apply for a job, took them to the local Citizens Bank to set up bank accounts, and practiced interview skills. In the same week, they each interviewed and were hired at the same full time job. After their first job, they can come back to IIB to enroll in the Service Industry Training Program or the Hospitality Training Program, and they can use any other employment service.

This is just the beginning. I’m looking forward to a fulfilling summer at IIB!

Emilie Kahn-Boesel ’18