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  1. Dedication
    1. I have mastered the art of treating my internship like it’s my job. Once I get to work I do my best to prioritize everything that needs to be done for the advancement of the department I work in. Sometimes my passion for my internship and making sure the necessary tasks are being completed has required me to invest more hours than my regular hours. Lastly, the relationships that I have built with some of my clients through the case management work I do for them has revealed my passion to seeing things work out for them. While I do not want to be a medium that replaces the need for my clients to become self-sufficient, I do want them to know they have the support and help they need when they come to my department.
  2. Integrity
    1. One day during Morning Meeting at my middle school, Link Community School, I remember our Vice-Principal at the time defining integrity as “What you do when nobody’s watching.” While that definition does not specify if the decisions one makes are positive or negative, all the examples our Vice-Principal gave expressed the theme: making the right choices when no-one is watching. Hence, the past three months I have spent interning at the IRC has allowed me to practice doing my best work even when nobody is watching. While it was not always easy to take up tasks that were not initially my responsible, I became a better team player by learning ways I can cover up for other team members so that the many tasks at hand would be completed quickly and efficiently – most importantly, that we serve as a great support system for our clients.
  3. Sensitivity To the Work Environment
    1. While it can be hard to be the new person ‘on the block’ when you get a position at a workplace where it seems like everyone there has a tight bond, it is good to make an effort to meeting people. My first three weeks at my internship comprised of a lot of mini office parties for the interns who were wrapping up their internship session, I found that period to be very daunting because I constantly had to introduce myself to people and be in spaces where the majority knew themselves and I was one of the few new people. Although, those weeks felt like a series of ten to fifteen minute drills of learning how to quickly introduce myself and find a common subject of interest to discuss with the people I was meeting, I now find it even easier to make conversation with people. Yet, it is necessary to make sure while one wants to get to know the other team members on the team, he or she must be sure not to overstep the unspoken and or spoken boundaries that have been created in the workplace – precisely, maintaining a level of professionalism.
  4. Social Justice
    1. Social justice is not a foreign topic to me. However, the work I have done at the IRC has revealed to me domains that I never gave much thought to in regards to being an advocate for justice. The refugee, asylee, parolee, and SIV clients I interacted with have inspired me to think about ways their needs can be met through different means of advocacy. Case in point, I know that if I want my clients to have a much smoother experience through the healthcare system and medical sites I need to advocate for policy changes that will make interpretation obligatory for all medical/health providers that accepts public health insurances.
  5. Preparation
    1. My three months at the IRC has made me think “What’s next?” I have used my time there to assess what I liked about my internship and what I did not like. I assessed the work-environment, the way the organization functions, the products of the work we invest daily, and my fit within the organization. Those themes have helped me to have a better description of the kind of internship and job that I want next. Hence, I am prepared for the next project(s).

Keeping Positive Moral

Although the main objective of the IRC (NJ) is to resettle refugees, asylees, and SIVs in the New Jersey area, it is also determined to see the clients become self-sufficient. Hence, why programs such as Matching Grant – which deals with employment -, TAG-D – a women’s employment program -, Case Management, Intensive Case Management – where I work -, and Resettlement and Placement exist. The aforementioned programs are all mediums to help make our clients self-sufficient, independent and not reliant on other people or sources for their survival. As I mentioned in a previous blog I have observed that it is very difficult for some of our clients to make progress in – what we hope is – their endeavor to become self-sufficient due to ‘learned helplessness’ and or an elementary form of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is disheartening to see clients who aim to become self-sufficient by trying to secure a job and are not able to do so – but it is nobody’s fault. Therefore, when I notice that I am allowing the work I do for my clients to consume my thoughts to the extent of feeling frustrated, I take a step back and remind myself that I must be satisfied that I am doing my best to help them. Hence, I have learned how to celebrate every victory whether big or small, because small victories lead to great triumphs – and they take time to occur.

The main goal at the IRC is to make our clients self-sufficient. In my department, Intensive Case Management, self-sufficiency is not only our end goal but what we strive to see in our clients every time we are in contact with them. However, this goal is very hard to achieve because many of our clients still battle with one of the most obvious signs that their security and humanity was under a constant threat, ‘learned helplessness’. While the phrase ‘learned helplessness’ may have a negative connotation behind it, I think it is a state that one finds within him or herself because of our innate human instincts that make us to behave in ways that align with the ideology of “the survival of the fittest’. Thus, our clients are simply trying to survive and it is easier to be reliant on a source than to become fully independent. Hence, I have learned while I will do my best to try and show my clients how to become self-sufficient by giving them opportunities to do so. I will also show them grace as they figure out how to rediscover themselves in their new social and cultural contexts by helping them along the way – to the degree necessary.

After several months of going through the tedious process of “networking”, out of frustration I google searched internships in northern New Jersey. I felt helpless on every side in terms of trying to obtain an internship by using the resources and individuals available to me. To be honest I cried while I was making my Google search because I spent about four months processing all the details to help me get an internship. I went to the Career Center so many times to fix my resume, I spoke with different people from different parts of campus to see if they had connections with people in my field or any related fields who I could connect with, and I networked with people and even had informational interviews with some of them. However, nothing about that process made me hopeful because “you can’t ask for an internship” even though that is what you need – there are reasons why that statement is made to students, while I understand them I think there has to be a better way to get access to opportunities you want as a student.

So I started frantically typing into Google a phrase like ‘summer internships in northern New Jersey’. It took me to a site called Indeed.com, which I never heard of before and as a result I was skeptical of it, but I found al ot of intern positions listed for the summer especially from the IRC. As I was scrolling on the page and I saw the words: health and medical, I immediately stopped scrolling and read carefully. That was the description for the Intensive Case Management Intern position. As soon as I read it and saw it’s correlation to public health, community psychology, and international studies, I braced myself for the few hours I planned on using to complete the tedious application process. To my surprise I got my application done in about an hour and submitted it. I was so fed up with seeking help, I did not ask anyone to revise my essay for me. I looked it over by myself, said a little prayer, and submitted it.

After a week, I called their office and re-stated my interest to be an ICM Intern and that I would just like to know if they were interested in considering my application, so I could have an idea if I should invest my time in applying for the Dickinson Internship Grant, since I would need transportation money, because the internship is unpaid. I was told to speak to the supervisor, who then transferred me to my boss. My boss asked me some basic questions and asked if I didn’t mind if she informally interviewed me on the phone, since I was not able to travel to New Jersey during a weekday for a formal interview. With joy I said yes, she asked me about four questions I responded to the questions to the best of my ability and she said she would get back to me in an hour from then. When I checked my email two hours later I saw the words “ If you are willing, I would like to proceed with including you as an ICM intern for this summer.” I thought of course I want to be included!

That is how I got my internship and I cherish the experiences I have gained from it, because I have learned so much in the past three months and I have wanted an internship for a very long time.

My ‘real world’ schedule contains a lot of free time, similar to my schedule on campus as a student. However, depending on your lifestyle you may feel that the ‘real world’ schedule is more freeing to do things at the time you want and less stressful. Please note that these are my observations and stating a difference between the two types of schedules is subjective to one’s personal goals and agendas. For that reason, I will share the differences I have noticed between my two schedules. I am basing my ‘real world’ schedule on this summer’s everyday routine.

I prefer the real world schedule – which is my work life schedule – over my busy academic lifestyle as a student. While I do not mind the academic work, I just rather not have a schedule that contains blocks of time to sit in classes, hours of homework for those classes, campus activities, and work. I prefer working, having academic work to do with nice spaced deadlines, and free time to do activities that I enjoy. Basically sitting in class for long periods of time and spending a lot of time on homework is not fun to me. Simply, my life on campus seems to cramp a lot of things into 24 hours and it is always in my face, because leaving on campus does not truly give me the option to retreat from the busy academic setting. Whereas when I leave the office I intern at in the afternoon I know I am going home where it is a completely different setting and the work from the office does not follow me home. Consequently, I have realized that I prefer jobs where my work environment does not accompany me home.

This summer I have an academic project that I am working on, my internship, my Dickinson blogs, the Dickinson Internship Notation Program, and a project that I am working on with a mentor of mine for immigrant and refugee youth. So I am not free from the academic lifestyle or activities, but I enjoy them because I get to do them on my own schedule. I just have to make sure I meet my deadlines. Since I am not over whelmed with other academic work apart from my academic project I get to pace myself to get it done, rather than procrastinating because I have so much urgent work to do for other courses. Therefore, my work life gives me the freedom to get things done in time because I am not stressed with other work.

As you may have been able to detect from this blog, I do not like being stressed – I don’t think anyone does. My stressors usually come from having homework assignments due back to back and having an overwhelmingly very busy schedules when I am on campus. Hence, why I prefer my ‘real world’ schedule which is also busy but with minimum stress and ample time to get tasks done.

Every setting has a dress code – whether we like to acknowledge it or not. Dress codes are not bad. However, dress codes can pose us problems if they do not align with what we deem as convenient or fair. While it is not always easy to abide by rules set in place, dress codes are one of those rules that it is necessary to abide by in the work place.

As an intern at an NGO which resettles refugees from different parts of the globe, it is essential that we have a dress code to abide by. While the dress code in place at the IRC, in my opinion, is very convenient and doable, it is important to me that I make sure I am respecting it and the community I am apart of when I go to work. Our dress code is very simple – we just have to aim for business casual and on Fridays we have ‘Dress down day’.

Although it is very easy for me to say that the dress code is not difficult to abide by, I would be misguiding you if I do not mention the fact that the organization I intern for is not blind to the fact that we work with clients from different cultures and religions. Thus, its aim is that everyone in the office do their best to dress in ways that are respectful of other people’s cultures and religions when dressing professionally  and or business casual. While arguments can be made against dressing in ways that consider the culture and or religion of the different individuals that make up our community at work, it is simply a part of work ethics to follow the dress code.

Lastly, I believe it is good to be sensitive to other people’s cultural and or religious/faith backgrounds so that we do not overstep our boundaries. For instance, people who come from parts of the world where men and women do not make eye contact learn how to be sensitive to western culture when they come to a western nation like the U.S.A.; case in point, they learn how to make eye contact with people when they are speaking. Therefore, it does not remove from who we deem ourselves to be to also be sensitive to other people’s cultures and or religious backgrounds, because there is no one true American identity or way of doing things.

Cultural sensitivity does not impose on dress codes in the work place, but guides the makeup of dress codes.

Come to work on time.

Greet the people in the office as you come in. Saying “Good morning.” is a respectful way to address people in the office and also a great way to star your day. If you happen to be running late let your boss know. Communicate via email, phone, or text – if applicable. Communicating lets the people you work with know that you care about your job and that you are committed to the team of people you work with and the work you guys do.

Be Organized.

Have a to do list where you write a list of things that you have to get done for the day. Prioritize the most important things to be completed first. Do not have a rigid to do list which leaves no room for your supervisor or co-worker whom you work with to ask you to add other work to your list to be done for to day.

Be Proactive.

“Always be up and doing”. I often heard this saying growing up as a way to challenge me to always keep myself busy and getting something done – not allowing my time to waste away. In summary, it is a quick way to express to someone that he or she should have a go-getter attitude.

Secondly, while you prioritize the list of your work you have to get done, it is essential to attempt to cover all the bases of the tasks at hand. For example, before I leave the office every day I do my best to have at least a comment to report back to my boss about each task I have/had on my to-do list. This is helpful for my boss to know that I attempted tackling all my assignments and that I was not sitting around all day doing nothing. It also gives me time to complete tasks that require a lot of follow up. Let’s say you have a position that is similar to mine in terms of having to constantly contact different people to do follow ups, it is advisable to start as early as possible; you might need to call other people to obtain the answer to your question and very often have to leave voice messages because people are busy with other things at their respective jobs and can’t answer their phones.

Have a good attitude.

Even when it’s not convenient, do your best to maintain a positive attitude. Sometimes the work you do is overwhelming, because you feel like you have to knock on a ten doors to get at least three open – at least that is how I feel about having to chase people down every time I call an office to request basic information for a client’s case. Other times you might just feel like the intern who has 20 files stacked in front of her to go through by the end of the day. As mentioned earlier, learn how to prioritize your work, that will save you a lot of time.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

 

As an Intensive Case Management (ICM) Intern at the International Rescue Committee, a refugee resettlement agency, I have learned that the training is intense. I spent one official day receiving training with all the other interns who were starting their positions for the summer. My first three official days of work was a boot camp for the work to come. The person who trained me basically gave me a crash-course on all the work that I will have to do, situations that may occur, and how the office runs. Honestly, it was overwhelming and a tad-bit boring – but that is expected. Training is never really a fun thing to go through but it is necessary to do, I chose to persevere through the mundane process because it is an essential part of the foundation of having a successful internship .

By the last day of my first week, my fourth official day at work, I was getting work done! I booked transportation arrangements for some clients and even trained my fellow co-intern how to do the work I was doing that day. It happened to be his first day at work, so it was nice to know that I was able to explain to someone else what I had just learned, because it made me confident that I understood what I was taught. That same day both of us were randomly given the opportunity to translate a message another department had for some of our clients about an upcoming program for children to enroll in. I translated the message to French while my co-intern translated to Dari and Farsi. I’m glad I said yes to the director who asked if, because it turns out we have something in common. Be on the look out for a blog on my random conversation with that director.

Anyway, my second week went by so fast it was ridiculous. I told myself that I would work from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but I found myself staying as late as 6 p.m. and the earliest I ever left that week was around 3 p.m. No one forced me to stay late. I saw that there was so much work to be done and amidst of the schedule I had for myself someone in the office would either need me to translate or cover the front desk, hence the time literally flew before my eyes.

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. time went by as it normally would, but once 11 a.m. hit if I don’t look at a clock before I know it would be 2 p.m. or passed it – because the office is so busy then. However, I really enjoy the fact that I am offering service to refugees, asylees, parolees, and SIVs in my home community (NJ), so the hours I spend beyond my schedule are worth it. However, I had to make sure I do my best to keep to the hours I set for myself, because I started getting bad headaches after work and if I really want to be of help to the office it is in my best interest that I am physically well and fit to work.

An aspect that I appreciate about my internship is the diversity of the team of employees and interns. I have never been in an office so diverse. There is at least more than one person whose origin is from one the following continents and regions: Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. It is not uncommon to hear about 3-4 languages being spoken simultaneously in different offices if I’m standing in the hallway. Some of the Languages – apart from English – many of the workers are fluent in are Arabic, Creole (Haiti), Dari, Farsi, French, Spanish, Swahili, Ga, Ewe, Turkish, Akan/Twi, Urdu, and Yoruba. Also, – as I expected – the office is not male dominated, which has many advantages because there is a balance of representation and ideas.

Lastly, I have been feeling on top of things in the office lately and it is a great feeling because I know I can take on more tasks. Thus, now I am learning how to rise to face news challenges constantly, because my supervisors are always ready to help me move on to the next level – it’s kind of like playing a game. You learn how to win one level so you can move on the next and you keep on going until you can play no more. Last week I had my first meeting with a client and now I have more meetings coming up with other clients. Similarly, a coworker of mine knew I spoke a little bit of Spanish and decided to give me the opportunity to interpret a brief interaction between her and some clients to practice my Spanish skills, she has now decided that if I am available when she needs a Spanish speaking person she will contact me.

Hence, my internship has challenged me positively in different ways and the people I work with have made the environment one that is welcoming for me.

That’s it for now, be on the look out for my next post! 🙂

 

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