Phone: 616-331-3311
Fax: 616-331-2070
Career Services

206 Student Services Building
1 Campus Drive
Allendale, MI 49401

Refugee Resettlement Internship


Experience Information

Employer: Lutheran Social Services
Job Title: Intern
Major: International Relations
Received Credit?: Yes
Paid?: No

Description of the Organization

Lutheran Social Services has been serving the people of Michigan since the early 1900s. Its programs include working with the less fortunate, foster care, adoption, and the resettlement of refugees. The Resettlement Department resettles refugees within a three to six month period. This entails finding homes, enrolling in school,learning English/US customs, finding employment, and ultimately helping refugees become self-sufficient.

Description of the Tasks/Projects Completed

I provided medical transportation to and from appointments, aided caseworkers in managing their caseload, and further developed financial literacy orientation material for incoming refugees. I was also a "cultural mentor" for a specific refugee family, which entailed helping them with daily tasks, answering any questions, helping them feel more comfortable, and simply talking (with a lot of laughing and miming of course because learning English does take some time!)

Skills/Knowledge Gained Through The Experience

The ability to remain flexible, very flexible as a day's schedule can change in an instant while still being organized. Communication was also essential in this internship, both verbal and nonverbal. I had to communicate with clients at times without the use of translators, and while it was difficult at times, the message was still received. Finally, I learned a substantial amount regarding the resettlement process and what refugees go through to get to the US, and also what lays ahead of them once they are here. Their journey is never easy, and the difficulties are not over once they arrive.

Favorite Part of the Experience

Interaction with clients, and my role as a cultural mentor were by far the most rewarding experiences. Establishing a personal relationship with a family allowed to me have even more cross-cultural experience and see life from a different perspective.

How the Experience Influenced Future Career Goals

As an International Relations major, I of course want to pursue a career that allows me to travel and/or work with international clients/businesses or various cultures. Interning at Lutheran has reinforced this in my mind. I enjoy learning something new everyday in the office. However, this experience has highlighted the obstacles that many nonprofits face. Working in the nonprofit world can be very challenging, but no career is without its flaws. This experience has also further prepared me for my Peace Corps Service overseas next Spring. After my two-year service I plan on pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector or with an international company/business.

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of GVSU.

Copyright © 1995 - 2015 Grand Valley State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution