Goodbye, But Not For Good

Today marks the end of my summer internship, generously funded by the David C. Frederick Public Service Internship Award. In our final meeting, us interns were asked to reflect on our experience at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a prominent refugee resettlement agency.

“I never knew that this was a career path,” I said. “But now it feels like my career path.”

My time at the IRC was incredibly formative. Going in, I felt passionately about national security, or rather fixing everything I perceive to be wrong with national security. I didn’t fully understand at the time that my passion was actually for human security, which emphasizes investment into social services and community programs rather than weaponry and surveillance. Prior to my internship, I also didn’t know which kind of job I wanted. I did not perceive myself as a future politician or a security analyst by any stretch of the imagination, but at the time I didn’t know of any other jobs within the field. My IRC internship guided me to the exact path I had been looking for, and as a result I now intend to make a career in refugee resettlement.

The internship helped me find my passion, and it has given me a better idea of how to arrive at my intended career destination. After forgetting the Spanish my Colombian mother taught me at a young age, I only recently began studying again out of a desire for connection to my culture. Now, I am even more motivated by the potential to use my language skills for good. It will be a very long road to proficiency, but with Turkish already under my belt I am remaining optimistic about the process. Furthermore, I am excited to continue my studies at Pitt with an emphasis on conflict and migration. With an end goal in sight and real-world knowledge to work with, I feel like the information I accumulate in my classes will be all-the-more relevant and illuminating.

After graduation, I have my sights set on a role at the IRC or at a Resettlement Support Center (RSC). I am also interested in nonprofits that serve refugees outside of resettlement, or those that empower other marginalized groups. It’s a bit unique and ambitious to hope for a long-term career in resettlement as the pay is low, the hours long, and the work incredibly taxing. Despite the high turnover rates in these organizations, there some supervisors and administrators who have stuck it out for over a decade, and I have turned to them as mentors. Although things may not work out exactly as intended, I am now certain that my career must be in the direct service of others.

To summarize the summer, it was a period of growth. I grew patient, empathetic, grateful, and more. I still struggle with work-life balance, but it’s a work in progress. I’ve had some amazing summers, but none have left an impact on me in the way that summer 2020 has. This will certainly be a memorable period, marked mainly by resiliency. Despite a global pandemic, I wouldn’t trade this experience in for the world.

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Photo courtesy of Feipu Song-Diaz

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