Keji Kujjo at Refugee Center Online
I’ve been working with the Refugee Center Online since May. I ran into a job posting on idealist.org that said RCO wanted an intern to research best practices for online learning and assist with developing a teacher training class that focuses on refugee issues. I’m in the cross-cultural and international education master’s program — also known as MACIE — and my focus is on educational development and marginalized populations. Thus, this internship sounded irresistible and the perfect opportunity to work on curriculum development while learning more about refugee issues. So, I emailed my resume and cover letter. I didn’t really know if anything would come of it because they have thousands of job postings on the job board. But to my surprise I got an email and phone call inviting me for an interview. A few days after I interviewed, I was offered the internship position.
My family migrated to the United States when I was 14 years old and so refugee and immigration issues are very important to me. I foresee myself working with refugee and immigrant students in the future. With this internship, I not only get to be part of the planning committee but I’m still a student who is learning how to be a better educator. I think it’s crucial for future teachers and educators to know about the causes of forced migration, to understand the barriers students will experience upon arrival and throughout their time in the United States, and to have strategies for including refugee and immigrant students in and out of the classroom.
I really think this is one of the best internships I’ve ever done because I’m constantly learning. For example, I got to help create these country profile sheets that cover different places of origin for U.S. refugees and different ethnic groups. The profiles highlight language, what educational systems and backgrounds the refugees are coming from, issues of family and school engagement, as well as gender and culture. This was such an eye-opening project because for some of the profiles I had never heard of this country or that ethnic group. My brain was so excited to learn about all of these groups. I love challenges that open my eyes to new things.
I also got to join several MOOC classes to check out how other people are making their online classes interactive. My favorite part was researching case studies, developing writing assignments and tests or quizzes for future students. RCO ended up asking me to be the instructor for the course and offered me an opportunity to be a full-time employee, which is an honor, but because I still have one more semester I couldn’t accept the offer. Portland State University is interested in taking on the class and offering it to its graduate and continuing education students, which makes me so happy. Our work is going to prepare educators to work with refugees. It’s really amazing to think back to when I saw the job posting on idealist.org and thought, “Why not apply?” I never expected this.
My second internship was with Docademia LLC, which is an organization that showcases works by and about marginalized communities through the lenses of social documentary filmmakers. I heard about it through one of our professors in the MACIE program and ended up sending an email explaining my interest along with my resume. I got an email back the same asking when can I interview, and soon after I started my internship. I’ve been working with Docademia since May. I review documentaries and develop educational packages — quizzes, discussion questions, debates and scholarly resources — for academics to use in their classrooms. This opportunity exposed me to so many global issues. For example, through the documentaries I got to see how people experience LGBTQ+ issues in Turkey, Argentina and India. I got to learn about gender in Iran and hear so many marginalized voices. I think one of my favorite parts is how a lot of the documentaries are in the native language of whichever group that is speaking to us and educating us. Some of the languages I have never heard of before or I’ve never heard it spoken in front of me before, so my ears and eyes were being exposed to many beautiful languages, so many groups, and issues that I would have never had the opportunity to cross on my own. I also got challenged a lot when I had to research resources for the documentaries we accepted. My brain was constantly thinking about activities that were going to challenge students to think and see differently, activities that to make them uncomfortable or force them to step outside of their comfort zones and hear the issues voiced in the documentaries.
My final internship was with Northwestern University. I saw on WorkNet a job posting for a resident advisor and teaching assistant position as part of the NU college prep program. When I went to apply I found out that I could be a teaching assistant for a humanitarianism and global justice seminar, so I had to apply. There was no question since everything about this seminar was related to my studies. So, I sent my cover letter and resume. I later got invited for an interview and about two weeks after that I got a job offer. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. I accepted and on June 13 I packed up my stuff and moved to Chicago to start training.
I got to work with an amazing professor at NU and got to see students learn about the Bosnian and Rwandan genocide. They even got to do a mock genocide trial and they were so excited about it. My favorite part was non-classroom activities that we planned. The majority of the events I planned were educational. For example, I did a cultural trivia event for students to learn about other cultures. My favorite event was doing a college personal statement and resume writing workshop for our students. I got to sit down with some students one-on-one and work together on their resumes or personal statements. As a first generation immigrant student, I would have loved to have access to workshops and summer programs like this. Whatever I didn’t know, I tried to share the knowledge. Whatever resources or mentors I wish I had, I try to be that person for others. I believe it’s our duty to give back.
I’m still involved with RCO and Docademia. I’m still learning and still challenging my brain. I do my work for them long-distance. I’m now back in Bowling Green and looking forward to the school year. I get to be the director of professional development for Young Government Leaders at BGSU, and I’m also looking forward to all the events we have planned at the Women’s Center. Through my graduate assistant position, I also get to learn a lot when we have our weekly and monthly presentations. I also will be working with URGE and the Learning Commons. I love getting involved because I love learning, I love trying new things and I love challenging myself. It’s an incredible feeling to look back and say, “I did that.” It fills me with joy and confidence and allows me to show other students from similar backgrounds that they too can do it all.