Intern Resettlement Case Manager
The International Institute of New England
How did you land your current position?
I had heard about The International Institute of New England before from doing research. I knew Lowell was an immigrant city, and I really wanted to work with that population and with people from other countries, so I had done some research online, just looking for what agencies and programs were out there, and found them. They had a website online that tells you how to apply for an internship, so I just sent all the information in.
What was the interview process like?
I sent in a cover letter, resume, and their application form, and then they contacted me about interviewing. I was here (SJU) at the time, so we did a phone interview and then after that they let me know whether or not I was accepted, and I was. So I went in, we had an orientation day to kind of get used to it, and then started from there.
What does a normal day look like?
There was a lot, I think every day I went in and did something totally different. Your whole job revolves around how their lives are going, so that’s constantly changing. On different days I would set up apartments for families coming in, so I’d get furniture set up, work with moving companies, that kind of thing. I would also meet with clients, so refugees that have come over with translators, and discuss with them how things are going, what services they’ve already received, what they still need to do, if they’ve registered for school, discuss budget, and all of that. It was a lot of human interaction. So working directly with people and the clients themselves, and then working with other people, calling, working with moving companies, working with different organizations, walking people to the Department of Transitional Assistance or getting health insurance, that kind of thing. So it was very interactive which was awesome.
What do you like most about/ and find most challenging in your position?
Liked most: I think working with the clients directly, and just understanding their stories and knowing where they’re coming from. And even though there are a lot of very frustrating moments, where we wanted them to get something or wanted the process to go faster and it just didn’t, I think it was just very rewarding overall to feel like I’m a support system, and I’m learning just as much from them as they’re learning from me.
Most challenging: I think people’s frustrations, sometimes it was really hard to not take it personally when somebody was upset about something that I couldn’t control. And even if I could control it, if that was the rules, you can only go so far and you have to set boundaries. But it’s really hard not to sympathize and want to go even further, but then you put yourself in that position where it’s not fair to other families.
Did you find that refugees came more from certain countries or regions?
I set up eight people during the course of the three and a half months or so, and I think there were 12 different countries. So we had a lot of people from the same countries or we had really large families. The Democratic Republic of Congo generally had families upwards of 8-11 people, and so that was exposure to a completely different culture for me. But there were just as many people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, all over the place.
What is some advice that you would give to students who are currently searching for internships?
I think talking to people and using your network, because that’s when I first started hearing about the different options for internships. I was hearing about it through my mom who was networking with other non-profit organizations in the area. So she would talk to somebody and say ‘oh my daughter is interested in that, I’ll let her know’ and then I could research further. But I think some of the opportunities that I’ve had I never would have found in the area, especially going to school in Philly, where the options here and the network here is so based in the tri-state area, it’s hard to find things at home. But having people looking out for that and letting you know about things so that you can follow through with it is awesome.