This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Alexandra Ciullo, COL ’20
This summer marked my first exposure to the world of professional internships. Like most Penn students, I started the application process early and wrote dozens of cover letters. I was–and still am–bent on the idea that I want to be an immigration lawyer. But could I really say that without ever having worked in immigration law in any capacity? I decided this summer it was time to find out. As an Immigration Legal Services Assistant at World Relief Chicago, that’s exactly what I did.
World Relief is an international organization that strives to welcome immigrants and refugees to the U.S. in many ways. They include English classes, help finding employment,teaching clients to use public transportation, and helping them secure legal status in the U.S.
This summer I got my first taste of the 9-5 professional life, and I loved it. I spent my days filling out federal immigration forms for clients, studying clients and their families in order to build personal narratives for their applications, interpreting for Spanish speaking clients, and even attended federal immigration court.
This summer at World Relief exposed me to the good, bad, and the ugly of U.S. immigration law. I learned how incredibly complex and intricate it is, the years and sometimes decades of waiting it requires, and how much of an emotional and financial burden it can be to try to become a U.S. citizen. However, I also got to personally notify clients that their DACA renewals had been approved, meaning they could remain in the country they call home for another 2 years. I was able to tell citizenship applicants that their applications had been approved and that they would soon have an Oath Ceremony. I was able to reassure a worried U.S. resident that she could return to Mexico to visit her sick relative, and that no one could take away her resident status upon reentry to the U.S.
Without this summer experience, I would be completely in the dark about what a career in immigration law truly entails. I learned that immigration law is wildly more diverse than I thought, and that I really enjoy certain aspects of it and really detest others. Going forward, I am certain that immigration law is still what I want to pursue and now I am much more prepared for what a career in this field will look like.
While my commute could be a pain and I didn’t spend my days lounging on the beach, I am extremely grateful to Career Services for affording me the opportunity to intern at World Relief this summer. I learned so much that could never be taught in the classroom and left feeling much more sure about my future career aspirations. Most importantly, I was able to play a small role in helping such vulnerable populations feel more safe and welcome in their new home.