Through the Eyes of an Intern

Who am I?

Hi! I’m Sarah (#3), I’m a college student, and I’m interning at IRWP this semester!

Why IRWP?

As part of my International Studies major, I am expected to do an internship with an organization that has an international component and was recommended a list of possible internship locations that included IRWP. After reading about IRWP’s mission and goals, I knew I wanted to get involved because I am excited about the idea of interacting with people from different cultures and countries, finding opportunities to practice my Spanish, and empower women, immigrants, and refugees to feel more comfortable and independent in the US. So far, IRWP has been a perfect fit!

What do I do?

As an intern with IRWP, I do a huge variety of tasks. First, because the primary goal of the program is to offer lessons to immigrants and refugees, I am a volunteer teacher myself. I meet twice a week to have English lessons with a woman from Mexico. Getting to know her and her daughter has been a lot of fun, and it is incredible to see her dedication to learning English!

Besides weekly English lessons, I spend a couple days each week at the IRWP office doing any assignment the staff can find for me. Of course, I’ve done a few stereotypical tedious intern tasks, which help free the staff up to get other, important things done, but I’ve also done a variety of really fun and eye-opening activities as well. I’ll describe a few of my favorites:

  • Finding resources to help students study for the citizenship exam and interview (I learned a lot about the citizenship application and exam process as a result)

  • Assembling intercultural etiquette information to help teachers feel more comfortable when interacting with students from different cultures (intercultural communication is an interest of mine, so having the chance to learn about etiquette expectations around the world was exciting)

  • Accompanying some of the staff to meet with students and assess their English abilities (I had the chance to meet students from several different countries and get a glimpse of the effects of the program on their lives)

My internship has been an extremely positive experience so far; I’m enjoying myself and learning about different cultures and life for immigrants and refugees in the US. Plus, the IRWP office is a very positive atmosphere—the staff here are awesome (and I’m not just saying that because they’re going to read this before it gets posted)!

What have I learned so far?

I’ve already learned many lessons in the 2 months I’ve been here, which I hope to be able to carry with me in the future. Here are a few ways interning at IRWP has broadened my perspective on the world, the US, and speaking English:

  • Everyday tasks in the US are much more difficult when you don’t speak English

  • Immigrants and refugees are incredibly impressive for accomplishing everything they do in a knew country and a new language

  • The US citizenship application process is strict, intimidating, difficult, expensive, and very long

  • I speak English almost unconsciously because I learned it as a child, learning a language as an adolescent or adult is much more difficult

  • Having a successful non-profit organization means lots of paperwork, playing constant phone-tag trying to get in contact with students and volunteers, and always looking for more volunteers and funding to keep the program running

  • My Spanish is rusty; I need to brush up on my Spanish and start learning more languages because language learning is awesome!

  • Many of the IRWP students, and immigrants and refugees in the US in general, come from countries that are experiencing serious conflicts and turmoil, which can affect them intensely as individuals

  • There are a lot of resources available for immigrants and refugees in the US, but it often takes a long time to actually access those resources and people often don’t realize they have a right to certain resources (for example, translators)

Would I recommend interning or volunteering at IRWP?

Yes! I would absolutely recommend getting involved with the Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Program. There are always more students on the waiting list hoping to be paired with a teacher, and there is always work to be done at the IRWP office. Plus, getting involved with IRWP is a great way to learn more about immigration, which is obviously a very relevant issue in our country right now.


IRWP