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Sorensen Fellows reflect on summer internships

By Hannah Schuster

Section: News

September 11, 2015

Each year, through Brandeis’ Sorensen Fellowship, students accept summer internships around the globe in order to translate social justice into action. The International Center for the Ethics sponsors the program which allows students to examine issues pertaining to the environment, inequalities, ethics and many more important topics.

The fellowship is a three-part process. In the spring, students take a course at Brandeis or abroad to prepare them for their internship. Over the summer, students intern at home or abroad. Students receive a stipend to cover travel and living expenses, $4,000 if abroad or $3,500 if stateside. After returning to campus in the fall, all Sorensen fellows take a course together in which they reflect on their experiences and organize their reflections in a written piece.

Regina Roberg ’17, Tove Freeman ’16 and Anni Long ’16 discussed their positive experiences interning as Sorensen Fellows with The Brandeis Hoot.

Roberg interned at a clinic in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A psychology and Hispanic studies double major, Roberg assisted psychologists at the clinic, in addition to social workers, nutritionists and dentists. She appreciated the diversity of programs she was able to experience.

She also enjoyed volunteering at the clinic’s play area each Friday. Children played together while their mothers met with doctors or received free milk. Three weeks into her internship, Roberg felt sick on a Friday and was unable to see the children. Her internship coordinator informed her later that several children asked where she was and sent “their hellos and kisses.”

Roberg called this a moment when she realized she was impacting others in addition to the internship’s “personal impact on myself, as my absence was duly noted by some of the sweetest children I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with.”

One challenged Roberg faced while abroad was the constant communication in Spanish, but she noted, “that’s also why I learned as much as I did.”

Roberg explained that she had to work hard to establish herself at the clinic and make her capabilities known to coworkers. “As the only American and psychology intern, I had to work hard to gain the trust of the medical professionals I worked with, showing that I was here to learn as much as I could in a dedicated and respectful manner,” she said.

Now that Roberg is back on campus, she is excited to “unpack” her summer experience and compile her reflections and analysis during her course with the other fellows.

“I’ve never been a consistent journaler, so having to put my experience down on … paper really opened up my eyes to how I organize my thoughts and take things in.”

Freeman traveled to Oslo, Norway and interned at the National Center for Minority Health Research (NAKMI). According to the Ethics Center, Freeman’s internship allowed her to “assist with cultural competency training for clinicians.”

“I felt that everything that I learned academically at Brandeis was put into practice during my internship at NAKMI,” Freeman wrote in an email to The Hoot.

Freeman designed a program during her internship in which she interviewed migrant workers “about their experiences with the healthcare system in Norway.” She cites this accomplishment as one of her proudest moments from the summer. She did express the challenge of encouraging interviewees to “open up to her.”

“People lived through sometimes very traumatic experiences so certain topics were difficult to talk about, like seeking therapy treatment,” she said.

Long spent her summer at Media Monitor for Women in Beijing, China. “The experience made it clear that feminism is empowerment—that through feminism, women dare to speak, that they demand power,” Long wrote to The Hoot.

She enjoyed making friends with other feminist activists, and said that though many of these women had read fewer feminist theories than Long herself, “they have their own way to discover gender inequalities and develop counter-forces against misogyny.”

Long explained that she came into the summer expecting to develop a project which would help improve the current state of society, however she believes the experience educated and changed her personally.

“While working with my colleagues, I realized that the education I received had made me think too much and do too little,” said Long. She explained that people supported and insulted her grassroots activism, but that it was the insults which demonstrated to her that what she was doing was important.

“It is through the experience of combining knowledge from books and the actions that I develop my identity as a feminist,” she reflected.

All three students are excited for their course this semester with all the fellows. Freeman stated, “It will be really great to decompress on my experiences.” She is excited to hear about the others’ internships and to work on the written final product all the fellows will compile in which they reflect on their experiences. She encourages all those interested to apply and take risks on the application, stating, “this experience put all of my academic experiences into perspective and I would recommend it to all Brandeis students.”

Roberg recommended “writing about something that had a sincere, lasting impact on you,” because even though this can be challenging, “these are the experiences that produce the best writing.”

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