This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Caroline Scown, COL ’19, recipient of the Turner Schulman Human Rights Internship Award
I found the Youth Development Internship at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) office in Maryland after my spring “study abroad” in Washington D.C. sparked an interest in the Syrian civil war and world refugee crisis. The internship represented a perfect overlap between my passion for education and my newfound interest. Unfortunately, the position was unpaid and like many Penn students, I felt a tension between finding a financially stable position and pursuing non-profit work through an unpaid internship. The Turner Schulman Endowed Human Rights Internship Award was an incredibly welcome help in paying for rent, transportation, and daily expenses so I could pursue the IRC internship.
For the first month of the internship, I worked with my team to plan a summer school program for high school students from refugee families who had been recently resettled in the area. Given that many students who flee conflict experience traumatic gaps in their education, the program intended to help students shore up their academic foundations, gain confidence in a school setting, and better integrate into the local community. I was assigned with developing the curricular standards and learning goals for each of our math and English classes. It was an incredible opportunity to channel my personal passion for education and curriculum development through a well-established organization like the IRC, where I knew I would be impacting the lives of many students.
During that initial month we also visited each resettled family to recruit potential students in what were some of the most eye-opening experiences of the summer. Learning about families’ individual journeys to resettlement in the U.S. gave me a more nuanced and complex understanding of the broader world of conflict-driven displacement and refugee resettlement. I know that these stories will deepen my study of global conflict and resettlement at Penn.
The majority of the internship consisted of implementing the summer program alongside my IRC co-workers, volunteer teaching assistants, and local partners. Every day I taught and developed lesson plans for English and math classes. I taught extracurricular classes like Dance and Global Leadership, where I had the chance to share and exchange personal passions with my students. I also coordinated daily logistics and managed partnerships with local stakeholders like the county bus system, the Capital Area Food Bank, and our host high school.
As I start my senior year at Penn and begin to plan my career, this internship at the IRC will undoubtedly shape my path forward. I plan to pursue post-graduation opportunities that will allow me to connect with students and design curricula. I gained invaluable exposure to the key facets of running non-profit programming such as establishing and maintaining partnerships, navigating the bureaucracy and paperwork involved, and balancing idealistic aspirations with reality. I added another dimension to my academic understanding of human rights and refugee issues. Essentially, this summer has helped me narrow in on my career goals and has given me a greater handle on the experiences and skills I need to achieve them.