Name: Olivia Brintlinger-Conn
Class Year: 2021
Major: Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology/International Studies
Hometown: Yellow Springs, Ohio
Internship Organization: Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley
Job Title: Refugee Resettlement Intern
Location: Dayton, Ohio
This summer, I spent three months working with refugees living in the Dayton, Ohio, area through Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley. Catholic Social Services’ Refugee Resettlement team had partnered with No Longer Strangers Refugee Ministry to create a leadership program for young adult refugees. My work centered around creating curriculum for the program and creating a plan for program sustainability. Young adult refugees typically have fewer support programs available to them, especially if they have been living in the U.S. past the 90-day resettlement timeline. But for those who do not have adequate English skills or who did not come with family members, it can be hard to find a job, apply for college, and other similar opportunities. I was excited to apply for this internship because I am hoping to do similar work after college and because it was in my home state not far from where I grew up. I have always wanted to be able to give back to my community and through this internship, I could combine that with learning more about the nonprofit sector and refugee resettlement.
Creating a leadership program when you are not a natural leader yourself takes some self reflection. While I have leadership experience, I struggled to help create lesson plans to help others learn how to become better leaders. But this experience helped me to better understand what I needed to improve myself and how I could be a more direct and capable leader. The development of the program took a long time and at some points it felt as if the work my colleagues and I were doing was useless and for nothing. We had to postpone the dates we were going to start the program twice and there was some discussion as to whether the program should be started in the fall instead of in July. Because classes were in person, I was unable to attend and my role mostly consisted of program coordination and research. I struggled with feeling like I was not doing enough to help my supervisors and like I was wasting time because I was working remotely. This was the biggest challenge for me as I like to constantly be doing things and helping out coworkers when I have spare time.
One component of the program was to practice the skills learned in class while working as a group in a community garden. I was skeptical of the community garden aspect of the program at first. But as the program started and the lessons took place, I realized that the garden was a good place for the refugee students to see their work come alive and not be hypothetical. In many ways, the work in the garden reminded me of classes at Bryn Mawr. At times, I have felt as if the work I was doing for class was not going to get me anywhere but at the end of the semester, when I have a 20-plus-page paper finished, I realize that I accomplished so much. Looking at the before and after pictures of the garden showed me that while the garden appeared to be a never ending yard of weeds, the students never gave up and in the end their hard work paid off and the garden looked better than it ever had. I saw that my time and efforts were not in vain and I felt much the way I do after completing a final paper: relieved and proud. While I would have preferred to work in the office this summer, I was still able to learn and develop my professional skills while enjoying the work I was doing.
Visit the Summer 2020 Internships page to read more student stories.