It’s Complicated

In my last blog, I was feeling a lot of stress. I was struggling with one of my biggest weaknesses: anxiety. Although my internship always keeps me on my toes, I eventually got into the rhythm of things. Psychologically, I think it helped that there were interns that started after me who I guided. For example, I taught them about different trips and what documents to bring (such documents to apply for a social security card). I gained confidence because that proved to me that I was retaining reliable knowledge while at RICS.  As gained more confidence in my actions, I was able to relax more, better reflect on my experiences, and enjoy my time with the participants* and my coworkers. When I was first here, I thought about whether or not moving to the US was worth it for some of the participants. It seemed so dismal at the […]

Embracing Options

I’ve been home from Chicago for about two weeks now, trying to organize my life post-internship and preparing for stepping back into my role as a student after two long months of playing a professional adult role. Its an interesting regression, as I think I was finally getting the hang of adulthood and now I can choose to let go of that persona for another year before the permanence of adulthood kicks in. Although I’ve found some aspects of adulting enjoyable, I’m relieved that I still have some time before I have to adult to that extent again. The beauty of the CAPS fellowship is exactly that. You get a taste of a career path or field and how you need to function within that field, but nothing is permanent. At the end of the summer, you get to say your goodbyes and step away from that experience, and have […]

In Truth and Love 1 comment

On one of my first commutes to work I had left my headphones at my apartment. This is a big deal to someone riding the CTA, because headphones provide a welcomed distraction to the chaos of life in the city. This train ride felt really long and I tried to ignore the awkwardness I was feeling. As I stood to exit the train, an older man also stood so we made eye contact and shared a small grin. We stepped off, and as we hit the platform he started chatting to me about his day. We walked for about five minutes together before our routes took a shift as I went to walk into work and he was to continue down the sidewalk. Before we parted ways, he asked for my name and we shook hands as we shared a more genuine, friend-like smile. I have reflected on this moment […]

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Finishing up my time as a CAPS Fellow has been a blur. I finished up my last day, packed up my apartment, and caught a 7am flight to Boston to meet my family. Now I’m back home in Wisconsin for a lengthy six days before blasting off to study abroad in Costa Rica for the semester. All that being said, time to reflect has been scarce. I’m still coming to terms with everything I learned throughout my CAPS experience but I’ve definitely seen myself grow as a person, both personally and in my career aspirations. When I started at Venn, I knew I felt like I was in way over my head. I didn’t have a firm grip on what I was doing and at times I was drowning trying to learn everything at once. I felt incredibly unprepared about the work I was doing and thought everyone around me […]

Defining Quality

What is quality?  This is a question that Ingenuity seeks to answers in terms of arts education.  However, this is a question I sought to answer in terms of an internship experience.  Being a college student, we are told that an intern experience is a quality one because we need to build our resumes.  So often, students spend their summers making copies and getting coffee for the sake of building their resume. But is this truly a quality internship?  By the end of the summer, students only know how to use the printer, order coffee, and, if they were lucky, sit in on a couple of meetings to take notes.  My definition of a quality internship is one where I can grow professionally by doing meaningful work. Luckily for me, Ingenuity feels the same way. The advantage of working at a nonprofit organization is being surrounded by people who are […]

Jenga Blocks and the Metaphor of Relationships:

It’s difficult to believe that I am coming to the end of my time at Erie House. In the few weeks I have been here, I have learned a multitude of skills, listened to new perspectives on life, and saw the service sector function through a different organization. Each day was another day to learn, to grow, to challenge myself. Yet, some days brought lessons that were seemingly more profound than others and introduced me to a new way of viewing relationship-building, and life in general. Since ninety-eight percent of my work has been with elementary-age or middle-school age kids, I’ve definitely become more apt at playing sports as well as a variety of board games that I had either not touched since my own childhood or have never seen in general. However, Jenga was one of the games that I was quite familiar with (as there was the “giant […]

“Every Voice Matters”

Satu, dua, tiga…   This past Friday was our final day of Refugee Youth Summer Program here at Heartland Alliance- a day filled with many emotions, from exuberant pride at the growth and confidence of our kids, to humbling gratitude at the opportunity to work with them each day, and finally the acute sadness that accompanies difficult goodbyes.   For the last six weeks, I’ve waited in front of the Howard Jewel-Osco in Rogers Park for our youth to come out to summer program, based this year around the theme “Every Voice Matters”  (“camp” is not used by Heartland due to its potentially retraumatizing connotations). Kids between 5-15 years old from countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Burma, and Central African Republic- many of whom are relatively recent arrivals to the United States- are invited to summer program as an opportunity to build relationships, promote familiarization with their greater Chicago community, […]

Unexpected Home 2 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the book The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. This has been one of my favorite books since I first read it when I was 13. The novel follows protagonist Taylor, who, realizing that she needs to escape her small hometown in rural Kentucky, buys a VW Bug and vows to drive until it breaks down. She ends up in Tucson, Arizona, and through a strange series of events finds herself caring for a three-year-old girl who she calls Turtle. There are a lot of reasons this book could be on my mind lately – besides the Southwestern aesthetic that characterizes both Tucson and Austin (my home for the summer), it touches on perennial themes like immigration rights, environmental responsibility, and coming of age. But most of all, it is a book about building a new home in a foreign place. Taylor draws together […]

Blog Inception 1 comment

My internship with the Harrison Center has held countless surprises, lessons, and memories. Looking back on all of it (the good and the not-so-good), I wouldn’t change how any of it played out– mostly because everything I’ve learned has been one more puzzle piece I can add to my unknown, post-graduation future. One of my most unexpected epiphanies didn’t make itself known until my last couple of weeks in Indy but it greatly affected that span of time. I didn’t anticipate becoming apathetic to writing– blog writing that is. I know it’s a bit meta and ironic with this being a blog post but between the Harrison Center and the freelance writing I do for an addiction recovery center, this reliable use of my Creative Writing degree has grown less appetizing. Upon reflection, I think what’s deflated my love for blog-writing-as-a-career, has been the way it has zapped my energy […]

Lessons from “Naptown”

This blog post comes to you in two parts. Firstly, one of the most awkward friendship-based situations, in my opinion, is listening to friends talk about inside jokes without being in on it. It’s fun for a couple seconds, of course, because there’s excitement and laughter, but then again, there’s accidental exclusion. So to prevent that possible feeling, I would love to share some of the jokes and lessons from this summer.   Me and Katy, a previous CAPS Fellow who now works at ArtMix, welcoming guests to the Art and Home Tour.   1. The Byrd Family Though the Indy CAPS Fellows grew closer day by day through dinner time, there was some general, low-key disconnect due to everyone knowing one another to varying degrees. One day, one Fellow showed up late to dinner and the light-hearted dramatics that ensued afterward centered around a husband showing up late to […]

Recognizing the Phase and Naming the Stage

Alright, it’s week eight in your internship. The end of summer is approaching, and you’re a couple weeks from finishing. What should you do now? You’ve asked the questions, given your input, and tried to be the best intern you could be, but what happens now? I feel like there’s a shift that takes place over the course of an internship. I think you could consider the ‘shift’ like a series of stages. Stage one is what I like to call the “oh s**t” phase; you’re just figuring things out, and you’re not sure yet if you’ve got what it takes to handle it yet. And, from what I’ve learned, the only way to get to stage two (the “I get this, but not that” phase) is to be confident in your own ability to succeed. In stage one, I was afraid of letting my supervisors down and letting Ingenuity […]

The Summit of the Summer

700 fellows. 48 sub Saharan African countries. 3 days. 1 incredible experience. To say that the past two weeks working at IREX has been an adventure, would be an understatement. On July 29, all of the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows from 27 institutes across the country descended onto downtown Washington DC for the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit to close their fellowship experience. This summer, my internship working with the YALI (Young African Leader Initiative) team involved pouring over spreadsheets, looking through passports and tax back forms, and running errands all over the city. While I learned tons from my co workers, especially with technical skills in excel and salesforce, I eagerly awaited getting to meet our fellows in person. Last Sunday, all of the YALI team packed our bags and moved into the Omni Shoreham Hotel, where the Summit was to take place. The days were long and tiring […]

Finding New Growth in the Garden

This week is my last week at Growing Home, so naturally, I have been taking more time to pause and reflect on my CAPS journey. Last week, I spent time in our Learning Garden which serves as a hands-on experience for kids to touch and taste the produce we grow. The garden is the responsibility of my department to maintain, so I’ve spent a lot of time in that space over the summer pulling weeds, pruning beets, and harvesting all kinds of vegetables: tomatoes, radishes, green garlic, kale, swiss chard, and a few strawberries, (getting to sample a few along the way, of course). While working in the garden, I was surprised to see how tall our pea plants had grown from when we planted them a few weeks after I started my internship. These plants, which were once pea-sized seeds, had climbed to nearly 3 feet in just a […]

A Hot Commodity

My confidence is often borderline arrogance; however, I mean it when I say I’m a hot commodity at the American Red Cross. Not only do they literally want my blood, but my skill set has garnered a lot of attention throughout the region. I’ve been working as a Regional Communication Intern for the Red Cross, meaning I maintain their social media accounts, graphic design, and video. The last one is my focus, passion, and something that the Red Cross was very interested in. I think it’s important to stress that I am currently their only staff video editor in the state, as it is responsible for all of my stress. My supervisor, Duchess has been very supportive of my editing passion since she interviewed with me, and I’m very grateful to have her constant encouragement and understanding of the process. I receive plenty of support from everyone in the office; […]

Caught in the Experience

As the summer internship comes to a close, I want to reflect on the experience I had at Indiana Humanities, a statewide non-profit that encourages Hoosiers to think, read, and talk. Over the past couple of weeks, I was fortunate to work big events and go to places that no other internship can offer. The Next Indiana Campfires Series is a program unique to Indiana Humanities. This program combines treks into nature with literature and campfire discussions. The series won the Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize for Public Humanities Program in 2017, a national award given to the best humanities program in the nation. I was able to take a canoe trip down the White River while engaging in a conversation about literature. My co-intern, Julia, and I shared a canoe for the trip, and it was a bonding experience. I never thought that a four-hour canoe trip would change […]

Focusing In

The majority of my time spent in Indy after my trip to El Salvador so far has been focusing in on what project I want to work on for the remainder of the summer. After some deliberating with my supervisor, we decided that I would work on researching ultraviolet (UV) water purification processes and their potential compatibility with water system projects that CoCoDA has been implementing in Central America. I didn’t have many, but one of the concerns that I had going into this internship process was that I would end up just doing busy work for the summer. This is work that could potentially be useful, but in the end is just a made up task to keep me busy. In this scenario I still would have done all the wonderful learning and reflecting that I knew would come with the CAPS style internship, but without really contributing to […]

Traveler/Tourist: Reflections on Two Weeks in Uganda

One month before I left for Uganda, I called my parents to share the news: “Hey, remember how I’m going to Austin for that internship this summer? Well now they’re letting me go to Uganda first!!” They knew that I was excited about the chance to work with Water to Thrive (W2T), a nonprofit that builds wells in sub-Saharan Africa. However, they were somewhat concerned about the two-weeks in the African bush with such limited communication. I’d already been studying in Europe for five months, so they had been looking forward to my return to the U.S. On this call, I didn’t tell them that I’d already booked my flights to Uganda, nor that I didn’t know if I’d get any funding. I had made up my mind to go. And nothing, not worried parents, nor homesickness, nor the crazy logistics of getting there, would stop me. My role on […]

Compassion Fatigue

One morning on my commute to work, the woman sitting next to me on the train struck up a conversation with me, as we are often on the same train for a portion of our respective commutes. I took two things away from that conversation, the first being that I am fooling no one in my efforts to seem like a seasoned Chicago 9-5er, as she immediately intuited that I am an intern. The second thing I took away was her reminder that I am looking at the next forty years of my life in the workforce. I’m not sure if that piece of sage wisdom was supposed to terrify me (40 years of working seems pretty daunting), and at first it definitely did. With time, however, I’ve come to regard that statement as crucial in my personal journey to find a career or goal to work towards in my […]

Where Do I Go From Here?

Since this is my first blog, I’ll introduce myself. Hello, I’m Alicia, and I want to be an advocate for human trafficking survivors. It’s always a little awkward for me when I tell people my career aspirations. Human trafficking it’s exactly a light dinner conversation people expect when they ask me, “what do you want to do after graduation?” It may seem like I’m being unnecessarily specific, but I’m actually expanding my options. In high school I wanted to be a psychologist that specializes in healing trauma caused by human trafficking; however, VU has helped me broaden my career horizon while still centering it around human trafficking survivors. I could work as a lawyer, a policy maker, a researcher, an FBI intelligence analyst, or a caseworker. This why I find myself interning under caseworkers at Heartland Alliance’s Refugee and Immigrant Community Services (RICS). While this internship has been interpersonally and […]

Savior Complex: It’s not about you, it’s about the community

As a recent graduate from Valparaiso University in Social Work and Spanish, I have begun to experience life in the “real world”. From various job applications to calling insurance companies, I am learning what it means to be an “adult”. In this time of transition between my next job and the end of my college career, CAPS is filling the time with experiences that have opened my eyes to understanding the complexities of being a part of a non-profit organization. While this is not the first non-profit organization I’ve worked for, I have had the ability to see more of the “behind-the-scenes” aspects, such as the logistical planning and important meetings, such as meetings for fundraisers. In addition to these invaluable experiences, I’ve also come to discuss and explore what my calling is in this work that I do, but also understanding one essential aspect of service work: I am […]