Student Spotlights

November 2020

Karenna O.

Name: Karenna Oner

Major: Political Science (International Relations); English Writing (Nonfiction)

Minor: Turkish

Certificates: Global Studies (Peace, Conflict and Security); Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

Class Year: 2021


Internship Company Summer 2020: International Rescue Committee (IRC)


Position: Economic Empowerment Intern (summer); Youth Casework Intern (fall)


Internship duties: Throughout the summer I worked in the Economic Empowerment Department at the IRC office in Silver Spring, MD. I was tasked with helping recently resettled refugees become economically self-sufficient. I primarily assisted with early employment, which entailed job training, resume assistance, interview preparation, and a myriad of other tasks. Given the timing of the internship, COVID-19 presented new barriers that required their own creative solutions. I worked on a one-pager for clients to understand eviction proceedings, as well as a manual to contextualize the protests that arose from the death of George Floyd. My summer internship was full-time, and I was able to transition to a part-time role in the Youth Department for the fall, and have since been working to complete school enrollments and address the problems posed for families by remote learning.


What has been your biggest challenge doing this internship virtually if you had any?: The IRC has a great digital infrastructure, utilizing Microsoft Teams as a replacement for the physical office space. I felt well-equipped with all the tools to do my job, although the biggest challenge has certainly been the lack of face-to-face interaction with clients. Using interpreters over the phone was a challenging feat at first, but just like everything else it has become second nature. In the future, I hope to return to the IRC and work with clients – as well as my coworkers – in person.


What did you like most about your internship?: Prior to my internship at the IRC, I had been on a national security track. I had been considering working for the government in counterterrorism or a related field. However, while studying abroad in Azerbaijan last year, I was volunteering with Internalized Displaced Persons (IDPs) and conducting unrelated research on the intersection of education policy and the preventative measures for violent extremism. The IRC turned my budding interest in human security into a fervent passion, and now my goal is to work in refugee resettlement and better the lives of conflict-affected individuals. Without my IRC internship, I may not have fully realized these goals or found my professional niche.


What are your plans for Spring 2021/ Summer 2021?: Since I won’t be graduating until winter 2021, I intend to spend my summer pursuing either an intensive public policy program or another internship at the IRC. I am in the process of applying to summer institutes, and also plan on applying to return to the IRC in another department. I would be interested in working with the Intensive Case Management and Victims of Trafficking programs, which assist some of the IRC’s most vulnerable clients. Once I graduate in winter 2021, I plan on applying for a full-time position at the IRC along with other refugee resettlement agencies.