In an era where technology is so prominent and information is available to us at the simple click of a button, sharing experiences has never been so easy, yet it has left meaningful connections to sometimes be difficult. We are sometimes disillusioned into imagining that we can progress in our personal and professional lives best on our own, but I have found that is anything but true.
In September of 2020, I personally was able to join a cohort of other undergraduate students in doing an internship for Their Story is Our Story. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was all online. It was a unique situation in many ways, but connecting with people in a time of transition helped us all to get through it. Much the same way that refugees sharing their stories helps them to better connect with those around them in the communities they enter. The ability to share stories has the power to unite us to people we may never have had the opportunity to know otherwise.
During my time as a podcasting intern for TSOS, I had the opportunity to interview a refugee who lived near my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Through our interviews and conversations, we often talked about the importance of sharing stories. When he was young and living in a Thai refugee camp, he and a few friends he had started collecting stories from fellow refugees. They eventually compiled these into a newspaper that was distributed outside of the camp. The main objective was to communicate what the life of a refugee was truly like within these camps. Being able to share his story, and other stories from people like him gave him a sense of control and belonging.
The TSOS internship also gave me an opportunity to connect with refugees in the same time of life. Each cohort of interns is compiled of refugees and non-refugees. Our first task was to interview each other and create a podcast based on those interviews. My group of three had many conversations outside of the formal interview to decide on a topic that was relevant to all of us. In these conversations, the entire point of Their Story is Our Story was driven home. In one planning session, we had agreed to all talk about the person in our life who had inspired us the most. When we met later to plan interview questions and share who our person was, it was stunning to find out that individually we had all chosen to speak about our mothers. When we all revealed this, together we shared a moment of reflection as we realized that truly, no matter what the walks of our lives are, we all can find something in common. Our stories can all be related to, no matter how difficult. The three of us bonded in a unique way after that. There was a reverence that had not been there prior as this realization truly sunk in deep.
Without this internship experience, I would not have been able to meet these people and made the connections that I did. Especially in a time as trying as that was, connecting with people gave me hope and it gave me direction in life. And for many of us, we have built lifelong contacts for which we can reach out for any questions. Our network has grown in not only the professional sense but also individually. We have connected on a personal level.
These are the opportunities that internships can provide. Not only did I learn unique skills like sound clip editing, but more importantly, I built connections. In this time of technology providing easy connections, it may seem trivial to say that internships add anything to building connections. However, they provide not simply connections, but meaningful ones. Connections are one of the easiest ways to get a foot in any door we wish to go through. I found Their Story is Our Story through a simple connection and I have seen these connections grow through my professional life. In 2017 Forbes published an article describing the importance of networking in internships. They cited a study conducted by LendEDU in which they interviewed 2,400 students in total. They asked 772 of these students who had previously been involved in one or more internships if grades or connections had been more important in them receiving a role in their internship. An overwhelming 91% answered that connections were more important than their grades. This same group of 772 students who had been a part of internships, when asked whether they found the internship that paid better or the internship that opened more doors to be more useful answered, again, in an overwhelming majority of 93% in favor of the later.
Internships allow for people to not only connect for personal benefit, but also for professional benefit. When we all share our stories and our lives with one another, we are able to progress upwards together.
Referenced: Brown, M., 2020. The 2017 Internship Report | LendEDU. [online] LendEDU. Available at: <; [Accessed 27 July 2021].
Over the last year we have developed close relationships built on mutual trust with many of the families we help. We know their names, their personal stories, and individual needs. We are fully aware that our donations are only a temporary band aid for a larger problem. A bag of groceries only goes so far, and they will be back the following Saturday for more. Sometimes, though, we can make a bigger impact in someone’s life.
Selfies with friends. Shurooq and Sasha enjoy shopping together.
Suzanne Kaufman’s colorful illustrations are a delightful pair to Alaxandra Penfold’s narrative stating “all are welcome here,” no matter one's appearance or background.