Learning with Refugees

In my program, you are required to complete a 50-hour field placement before your senior year. Even though I am only a sophomore, I applied to complete mine this semester. Currently, I work at the refugee center in town, doing basic activities like answering the phone, greeting clients, and making appointments. I am only there once a week for three hours, so until the other day, that’s all I had been doing.

So the other day, I got to chance to actually work with a client myself. When a refugee arrives, apart of their integration experience includes cultural orientation classes. Before they can start those, they must complete an English intake form. This is usually administered by my supervisor, a social worker, but she was busy and asked if I could step in.

Obviously, I was very excited because this would be my first real one-on-one experience with a client – ever. She quickly briefed me on how to administer the intake form, but I would be totally on my own. First, I had to ask a series of basic questions (name, country of origin, self-reported English proficiency, etc.) to gauge their oral English skills. Then, I had them fill out some more basic questions (name, phone number, address, languages spoken, etc.) to see how well they could read and write in English. The last part of the form required me to ask cultural competency questions, like “do you know how to take the bus” and “what number do you use to call the police”. Afterwards, I just rated their level of proficiency based on my interaction with them, and then passed the information and client off to the caseworker.

The experience was quick and simple, but extremely valuable. It also proved to my supervisor that I had the capability of doing more for the center, if another opportunity arose. This is only my 3rd time working there, and have three more months to go, so I can’t wait to see what else I get to learn and experience.


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