This summer, Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM) gave three Centre College student interns hands-on experience with the American immigration process.
Katie Davidson ’18, Amanda Iocono ’18 and Ian Ennis ’18 interacted daily with clients navigating the American refugee visa process. Davidson worked as a communications intern in Louisville, while Iocono served as a legal intern and Ennis as a medical staffer in Lexington.
All three students said that their everyday tasks were mentally and emotionally challenging, as they worked with extensive paperwork, rapid policy changes and families struggling for a better, safer life.
However, they also noted that dealing with these challenges was well worth it, since they brought families together and helped them acclimate to living in the U.S.
Both Davidson and Iocono cited airport arrivals that reunited families after years apart as particularly powerful.
Iocono had the opportunity to watch a Congolese refugee reunite with his wife after three years of separation.
“It was exactly as I expected and everything I hoped for,” she said. “Hands shaking from excitement, I missed their first kiss, but I got her tears, his wide smile and family hugs. It was a beautiful moment.”
Davidson added that there are few experiences more humbling than watching a family be reunited.
In order to take part in these rewarding experiences, the interns remarked that Centre prepared them well for working across various cultures.
For Ennis, the College’s support came from his language courses, as he has spent several years studying French and French-language societies. These abilities gave him the capacity to effectively confront something all the interns faced: language barriers.
Davidson drew upon a different skill set from her Centre experience—her time abroad with Centre’s nationally ranked study abroad program.
“I do not think I would have been prepared for this internship without the internationalism that Centre fosters through its study abroad programs,” she explained.
“I am extremely grateful for the immersive experience that Assistant Professor of Religion Matthew Pierce offered through his Islam in Europe class, because so many of our clients are Arabic-speakers, Muslim or both,” she continued.
Coming into their internship prepared, each student could get the most out of Centre’s promise of an internship or research experience before graduation.
Ennis described the most fulfilling part of his summer as the daily connections he made with individual refugees.
“I loved being able to be face to face with our clients, use my language skills and see real change as I helped people create new lives away from everything they’ve ever known,” he said.
As for Iocono and Davidson, their time with KRM was particularly transformative, encouraging them to pursue passions for immigration reform after Centre.
“The stories I heard and watch unfold inspired me to pursue law school,” Iocono said.
Her goal is to work at a non-profit or internationally to help promote stories of refugees and help reform the immigration process around the world.
“I have been exposed to many plights that refugees face when applying for resettlement,” Davidson said. “I have always been interested in immigration law, but now, more than ever, I would like to use a law degree to help immigrant and refugee families.”
By Kathleen Murphy ’18
August 18, 2017