2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Rebecca Alemayehu
Internship Location: Embassy of Ethiopia, Washington D.C.
Journal Entry #1:
Hi! My name is Rebecca Alemayehu and this summer, I interned in D.C. with the Embassy of Ethiopia. As an intern in the Diaspora division, I helped create a database of Ethiopian-Americans. Our very first assignment was to identify student organizations in colleges created by Ethiopian Americans and conduct a Q-A. While I was initially hesitant to reach out to people I hadn’t ever met before, it ended up being less nerve-wracking. Their answers to the questions helped the embassy become aware of the resources different organizations had available to them.
Similar assignments over the summer strengthened my confidence and communication skills. I connected with student leaders across the country and shared experiences of challenges and successes in our organizations. Talking to other students was a unique opportunity to exchange creative ideas for events. I also appreciated discussions on different campus climates in schools. It was inspiring to hear students in different states describe the process of carving spaces for themselves in sometimes unwelcoming environments.
This internship posed challenges; managing time differences, scheduling appointments and prolonged periods of unanswered emails often made it difficult to meet deadlines. These hurdles took time to face, but over the summer I worked on being flexible.
Journal Entry #2:
In the middle of the internship, some of the interns and I took on a special assignment. Most of our assignments were supposed to be collecting information on student organizations and study abroad programs to Ethiopia. However, an urgent situation of an Ethiopian-American high school student in Georgia paused our routine work. One of the interns had learned of his being jailed on the basis of very alarming charges through a GoFundMe campaign his parents had created.
We contacted his parents to learn more about the basis of his arrest. Though the embassy couldn’t involve itself directly, we did manage to brainstorm ways of helping the jailed student and his family. A suggestion from his father led to write to his representative and senators and contact the NAACP. Persistent calls and emails to his members of congress eventually led us to speak with a legislative assistant. While they didn’t exercise jurisdiction over the legal matter, the staffers were receptive and sympathetic. The family appreciated their time to listen though they couldn’t do much for their son.
After completing our goals, we continued to work on our given assignments. Though I no longer needed to call and email, I was extremely inspired by the process. This assignment taught me a lot about the work of advocacy and how easy it sometimes appears to be from a distance. The very task of calling different organizations to spread awareness showed me it requires persistence. I wouldn’t have thought to meet my own senators, but now intend to do so in the near future.