My name is Zofia Gallegos, and I am a senior Diplomacy & International Relations and Spanish double major. In Spring 2018, I was the Economic Empowerment Intern at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Elizabeth, NJ. Coming from a family of immigrants, I was always interested in immigration issues and laws governing immigration to the United States. I knew I would be a good fit for an organization like the IRC, which is dedicated to helping people that have just moved to the country to establish themselves and build their lives in the U.S.
While interning at the IRC, I met many different people from diverse backgrounds. Our clients ranged from middle-aged parents looking to provide a better life for their families, to teenagers and small children who moved to the U.S. and look for guidance towards understanding and becoming accustomed to American culture.
Day to day, my work varied greatly, but I always completed case notes regarding our clients and their developments into ETO software. My fellow interns and I also assisted with career development services or job searches on behalf of our clients. Career development might include learning about a client’s education, skills, and past work experience to determine what type of job he or she would be a good match for. Oftentimes, we helped clients obtain more information about a particular career path that they were pursuing, or we informed them of available job opportunities in the area. We utilized job search engines to look for jobs that would fit their salary needs and qualifications. In addition, I participated in team meetings to discuss the current issues, advancements, and concerns in our department. At these meetings, we discussed what we had accomplished over the week, what our challenges were, and something that we had successfully achieved.
My biggest challenges interning at the IRC were language and cultural barriers. Language barriers are self-explanatory; many times, our clients had recently arrived to the U.S. and had only begun the process of learning the English language. Other clients who came from the Middle East or the Caribbean region also required more attention since I only understand English, Spanish and Polish. Interpreters were typically available to translate, but I would make the attempt as well. Ultimately, I was able to turn my challenges into strengths by engaging with IRC clients in an open and friendly manner and having the patience to understand and communicate. I am happy to have had the opportunity to work with the IRC, and their goals to aid those entering America as immigrants are very much aligned with my long-term goals to help those in similar circumstances. I would recommend an internship with the IRC as you meet a host of incredible people, and the role allows you to learn essential skills in communication.