Saturday, April 26, 2014

The End: Rachel

Looking over the past 6 months and thinking about everything that has gone on throughout this internship, I honestly can not believe that it is coming to an end. This semester flew, for so many reasons, and the fact that my freshman year is coming to a close really makes me think and reflect. With this internship, well, I am just so glad that I had the opportunity to do it. Having the chance to meet so many students that I don't think I would ever have the pleasure to meet, taking on new responsibilities, and playing a leadership and mediator role with planning events. I know that I grew from this internship. Coming into it I was a leader, yes, but never one to really work to plan events and get people to come together. I wanted to be the person to support those people but never have been put in the situation that would leave me to coordinate events. I can definitely say that it is a lot more work than one would think, even for small weekly events. Thinking about others interests and how to get people to first know about the event and then actually want to come is a huge aspect of this. For me, though, it was really rewarding. I feel like I learned so much about the importance of the Intensive English Program here at UNL. It also put into perspective the idea of foreign people on campus. Since I plan on being the student that is the 'foreigner' on campus for a majority of my college career, being able to interact and ask questions of those here at UNL made me a lot more reassured about my future experiences. It showed me that it isn't all that scary being someplace where you really have no idea what is going on and we are adaptable and able to learn. It put learning languages into perspective for me and the amount of differences between language based off of cultural differences. And most importantly, I made some new friends. I go eat lunch with my Egyptian friend almost once a week and I have learned so much from her. I made some Arab friends that I sit down just to talk to on a regular basis. And of course my Chinese friends that attempt to help me with my Chinese. I just loved this opportunity. I know that it probably made a bigger difference and impact to me than the IEP students because in reality, I was the one that was really learning through it all. I loved it. The opportunity was one that I will remember and value and I am very excited to see what the next set of interns do with this internship!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rachel: Week 11

This week we held a birthday party for our IEP students and hoped to have a conversation about American birthdays and how they are different than in other places. This was also a good opportunity to end the year and we bought cupcakes to share with the students. We had a quite a few people show up to celebrate and it was a lot of fun. We had a few minor scheduling errors with getting everything together but everything ended up being alright and in the end it was a whole lot of fun. We got to eat and sing happy birthday and talk about celebrations in America as well as meet a lot of new people. I would really recommend this type of event in the future, having food made it not only an incentive for people to show up but also worked as a conversation starter for the event. I am really happy with our last event and the student that we threw the party for was so very appreciative of our efforts. (:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rachel: Week 10

Today we had a meeting to the IEP students and prospective IEP interns. There were four girls who showed up excited to learn about the internship and it honestly made my whole day. Being able to share just how much this internship has done for me and what impacts it has made in my life made me realize how much I did appreciate this experience. A lot of them seemed really excited about the chance to participate in it and had really good questions. I hope that I will be able to be a resource to the next interns and be someone that they can really lean on or go to for advice, because it can be disheartening when people don't know up, trust me and Ariel, it has happened quite a lot this semester. Even though we had a lot of failure, though, we really did learn a lot about event planning and getting students involved. Things that I hope to pass onto the next interns as I see this internship go even farther in the future.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rachel: Week 9

Today we partnered with the intercultural aides to put on a BBQ and it was so much fun!! It is so nice being able to fund events and I think this really was a great opportunity!! Me and Ariel ran all over to get food for the event and it made for a really stressful morning knowing that we were in charge of making sure that everything was there okay. But once we made it to Selleck, got everything unloaded, and ate some ice cream we really knew that this was a great event. A ton of students showed up and it was so fun being able to watch all of them interact. Seeing a group of students from all over the world with different backgrounds and different languages interact truly is amazing. As the host of the event I was able to sit back for awhile and people watch and I really was able to see some amazing things. The students didn't stick to talking to people from their country, they all seemed comfortable around each other, and prejudices really weren't apparent. They all enjoyed the food and the conversation and it was a really rewarding experience for everyone.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rachel: Week 8

This week we held another game afternoon. I thought it was a lot of fun.. granted it was just me sitting at a table playing Jenga for a half hour by myself... It truly is disappointing to plan something and be so excited about it then have no one show up to enjoy it with you. Today was another one of those days. Since school is winding down and there is more and more homework to do and more and more events to go to around campus I guess this would be a valid explanation for the lack of attendance at our event. I hope that we can finish strong in the next week and have the chance to meet a few more of the IEP students. Outside of the events I think I am really starting to build personal relationships with the few that I have met and those have truly began to be the most rewarding. I found one of the Arabic students in the Union yesterday and I had the chance to sit down with him and talk about how he was liking everything in Lincoln. It was really nice to actually feel like I was able to interact with the students and let them meet me for me, not just an icon on the Facebook page blowing up their walls bout our events, but someone who really cared about their time here. I think he really appreciated it and I know I really loved the opportunity. He inspired one of our last events; the week after next we will be throwing him an American birthday party. I am really excited to see how it turns out.

Rachel: Week 7

Well, it finally happened. After months of planning and careful precision, Project Nepal came to life. And it was absolutely amazing. It made all of the hard work, time, and tears worth it. I coordinated project Nepal through University Suites Housing Diversity Committee, which I am chair of. I presented a bill to RHA which gave us 1,000 dollars to work with to host the event. We partnered with Students Overcoming Stereotypes, Nepalese Student Association, OASIS, the Women's Center, Nebraska University Students Against Modern Slavery, The Evangelical Alliance Mission, and Tiny Hands International. It was an awareness event about the country of Nepal as well as the problems that it has with being a source country for human trafficking. We sold tshirts, had a raffle, free food and free admission, and the president of NSA and I did a presentation on the subject. Overall we raised over $500 and had over 100 people attend. It was amazing to see what I could do when I really put work into planning an event and have the support from everyone to see it become something. So many of the IEP students were there and it was so awesome having their support and being able to get them involved with so many other people from campus. There were people from the greek community, volunteers from the athletics department, IEP students, and such a wide variety of people who came to learn about Nepal and help support my mentor who is doing cross culture work in Nepal to prevent human trafficking. It definitely became one of the most rewarding experiences of the year and I don't think I would have had the courage to do it without the support of everyone around me.

I also had a chance to meet a student from Egypt who came out to support my event. I went to her house last week to meet her husband and she made me dinner. I was able to sit down with her and talk about her home country and help her with her english. It was such a fantastic experience and made me realize just how much this means to me. I believe that it is the most important thing to learn from each other, to be exposed and learn from others cultures and beliefs. She is a Muslim woman who wears a hijab and she actually sat there laughing as she explained to me how it worked and why she wore it. It completely opened my eyes because here I have been wondering my whole life about the Muslim faith, a huge hush hush in American culture, and having her explain to me the modesty aspect made it seem like something that wasn't something so foreign. It was something that I could relate to my culture and understand it. This internship really opens those doors for me and it is something that is truly making me grow as a person. From having the courage to plan a campus wide event to sitting down and simply talking to a woman who is so different than me that became one of my good friends.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rachel: Week 6

Well, you really do win some and lose some... This week we really did try to stick to planning our own independent events for the IEP classes. Since that has been something that we haven't been focusing on this semester we really wanted to try. With excessive FB posts, emails to teachers and students, lots of outreach in general... still nothing. We set up a show and tell event in the Selleck game room where the students could bring a little something from their home country and tell the group about it! We hoped that it would increase conversation and give the students a chance to talk about their home and me and Ariel a chance to learn more about the students in general. We chose the Selleck game room because at the game afternoon event that we held there we had a huge turn out because people were already there and it was a central location for a lot of students. With support from the teachers too, we hoped that this show and tell afternoon would have the same sort of effect. Sadly it did not and we had no takers for this event. We did hear back from some of the students that we had contacted and a lot of them had prior commitments or last minute conflicts.
It would be a lie to say that not having people show up to these events isn't disheartening, I get really excited about the events that we plan and with what I thought to be a lot of connections and support from campus I had hoped that getting attendance to these things would be a bit easier. People do have their own schedules, though, and making specific time to go and talk to people who aren't like you is hard and different. I even understand that. The only reason I am so okay with it is because this is what I live to do. I love being in awkward/uncomfortable situations because I believe that is where you grow as a person. I want to become a person who is comfortable and knows how to handle all sorts of situations that I am put in, I want to be able to understand others cultures and beliefs and behaviors so that they can shape me as a person and make me into someone who understands; because understanding is the true issue in all this isn't it. The understanding of another culture and the respect of different beliefs, actions, and ideals. I think that is important and that is why I am doing this, that is why I was so excited about this internship.
Of course, coming into this we were warned that this might be hard. Hard to get people excited about talking. Hard to get people to even show up.
It is.
Oh my dear it is.
So, I am taking a different plan of attack.
This week is my campus-wide event I have been coordinating through Students Overcoming Stereotypes, the Nepalese Student Association, and University Suites Hall Government with $1,000 of funding from our own Residence Hall Association. I have been throwing myself into planning this event because it has been all mine. Everything has snowballed and I have been able to coagulate everything I have learned with the successes and failures of this internship to my own event. I have been clear about date and times and locations, I have branched out to organizations that I know and trust and have made personal relationships in order to get them to believe in my cause as much as I do, I have blown up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in order to get constant reminders out there, and have created what I hope to be a successful event for people of all backgrounds and organizations. This event is a fundraising and awareness event for the people of Nepal as well as my friend Karin who is in Nepal working as a nurse and a cross-culture worker. Through health/wellness initiatives, community development, awareness, and education she is combatting human trafficking and hoping to help raise this country out of the poverty and crime that they have fallen into. The one thing I have realized this year is the lack of awareness of these issues and how easy it is to get into a bubble; this event is to combat that. I have made connections with students and faculty of all backgrounds and groups that are fully supporting this event! I think it is fabulous. No matter where you come from or what you believe or what background you have you have the ability to make a difference. Project Nepal is a free buffet dinner where people can come and learn about this resilient, beautiful country, the struggle they are going through, and how one person can make a difference in this world. Support is coming from everywhere: greek row, global studies students, the Gaughan Center, the Women's Center, women from the water fitness class I teach at the YMCA are attending, Tiny Hands International here in Lincoln is having a booth, the Health Center, friends from Oklahoma and NYC are ordering tshirts and sharing the event on their feeds to raise awareness, IEP, RAIKES, RHA students are attending, people are driving in from out of town to attend, we have donations from Ten Thousand Villages here in Lincoln and they are advertising as well, volunteers from all across campus including huge support from the UNL athletics department.....
Honestly, I am so excited to see all these people from different groups all in one place; interacting, eating, and learning together. Featuring my dear friend who is so far away making a difference and being cheered on by a campus who is so full or love and support.
Though Ariel and I are slowly trying to figure out this IEP event planning attendance dilemma, the failure is only leading us into bigger things. This internship has opened doors and realities that I never thought possible. It has led me to understand the abilities that I do have and the how absolutely important these events are. It is not simply the event. It is not simply sitting and playing games. It is not simply going to different speakers and activities. It is the merging of cultures to promote understanding and awareness. I have realized this more than anything. The understanding, interaction, acceptance, and inclusion of people from different social groups and cultural backgrounds is so important to our future as a people and world.
It is fulfilling knowing that though I am playing a small role in the attempt to make a difference, I am at least attempting.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” 
― Edward Everett Hale