What I Learned At My Summer Internship With The IRC
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What I Learned At My Summer Internship With The IRC

Knowledge gained that will last a lifetime.

What I Learned At My Summer Internship With The IRC
Sujana Kumar

As summer quickly comes to an end, I can’t help but look back on how these past three months have flown by. For the past three months, I interned part-time at the International Rescue Committee, a non-profit that helps refugees come to the US, and helps them set up a life here from figuring out the logistics to providing job counseling and helping our clients find a job. Prior to this summer I had no experience working in the non-profit sector and hadn’t really considered a career there. My plan was and still is to go to graduate school after I graduate, and work in the corporate office of a major cosmetics or fashion company. I honestly applied for this internship because it looked interesting, and was part time. I didn’t think I would’ve ever learned this much, meet so many amazing people, get to hear their stories, and had my perspective on life change so much from one summer internship.

1. I never realized the amount of privilege I really had:

Y’all, we have privilege. I don’t care what your gender, race or sexual orientation is; living in the U.S., we really do have privilege. We take for granted the fact that if we turn on a faucet, water will flow, and if we flip a switch a light will turn on. This isn’t a reality for a majority of people around the world. As an Economic Empowerment intern at the IRC, part of my job was assisting with our walk-in hours, where clients from any agency could come in, and be matched with an Economic Empowerment specialist to help them find a job. Through this process, I was able to meet so many clients from all over the world and from all walks of life. I still will not forget one client who came with his teenage son to help find him a summer job. While I was doing their paperwork the father mentioned that they were from Congo, and he had come here a couple of years ago, worked two jobs while going to school and getting an Engineering degree at Georgia Tech. He is about to graduate in December with a degree and wants to immediately start working. Hearing his story, I didn’t know what to say. I was completely astonished: how a person from a rural village in Africa was able to come to the US, support his family while still getting a college education from one of the best schools in the country. Sure life is hard no doubt, and people face hurdles, but you have no excuse to not work hard when living in one of the best countries in the world.

2. It opened my eyes to the struggles my parents went through:

I am a first generation Indian American. My parents came to the States 23 years ago, with two suitcases, little family, and no clue what they were getting themselves into. Unlike most immigrants, my parents didn’t get a college education in the U.S. and struggled to get to where they are today. Looking at our clients coming from countries where the culture is completely different, it makes me realize the sacrifices my parents went through. Now I know that my parents weren’t refugees when they came here, but like any immigrant that comes to the U.S., they had to go through so much to set up a life here, and I had no idea of the logistical dilemmas they faced throughout their time here. Mom and Dad, you have no idea how much I appreciate how hard you work every day to give our family a wonderful life.

3. It changed my perspective on the term refugee:

Given the current political climate, topics such as the refugee crisis and immigration are very hot topics. And they usually are during election years, but even more so given the blonde orangutan that is representing the Republican Party. To clarify, before I interned at the IRC I didn’t think refugees were bad people. Far from it. But seeing and hearing what people went through, it made me realize the struggles these people go through. I don’t care what your political or religious affiliation is: every major faith tells its followers to look out for its fellow man, and help those in need. The U.S. Immigration process, especially for refugees, is very through, long and extensive. It can take years for people to get a visa from the date that they applied. The people that come here as refugees are good hearted, kind and hard working people that shouldn’t be labeled as anything else based on the faith they follow or the country they are from.

I would like to say another huge thank you to the amazing IRC Atlanta office for giving me this amazing opportunity, and especially to the Economic Empowerment team for all your love, support and for dealing with my constant questions. For those of you that want to help out, the link to donate is here. IRC offices are located in most major cities and are always looking for clothes, furniture, books and other items to give our clients. If you can’t donate anything, please just spread the word of this organization’s amazing message and cause.

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