Being an intern is a really unique experience—something I can’t quite put my finger on. I think of it as an “in-between.” You are a student, but you are not in school; you are working, but you are not a staff member. It’s almost too easy to feel like an unknown identity, a random face amidst a canvas of electronic Zoom squares. It’s too easy to feel lost—even though you are likely sitting at a desk or kitchen table in your own home.
I would be lying if I said I was not wary as I stared at the white, lifeless, “Please wait for this host to start the meeting” Zoom screen for my first supervision. I knew that Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters had interns, but they were all graduate students, mostly from schools for social work. On the other hand, I was a young undergraduate just finishing my first year at Smith. What would I contribute? Do they even need me? Am I capable? As these questions, worries and assumptions reverberated through my head, the chiming of the video chat came on—and I did not know that I (for the most part) would be able to let go of these doubts for the next two months.
While interning, I listened, observed and reflected much of the time, but I also had the opportunity to contribute. I especially loved working alongside a few of the agency’s clinical match specialists, where I worked with some Bigs, Littles and families. I was not able to have an ongoing relationship with any of the matches because of my short time at JBBBS, but hearing each match’s voices and experiences, either in moments of joy or challenge, was a remarkable aspect of my role.
I also had a blast teaming up with the outreach manager to recruit volunteers—maybe one of the most exciting parts of the internship! When we were notified that someone had applied to be a Big or Friend, there was pure joy to go around. There was something so special about knowing that this person might have a huge impact on a child or adult’s life without them even knowing it themselves. I also got a chance to attend a volunteer meetup for our LGBTQ+ program and choose some fabulous winners of the esteemed Virtual Match Contest, both of which made me smile.
However, I am most grateful for the trust, responsibility and respect I received from every member of the agency. I felt like I had a voice, which I never expected to happen, amidst my isolation at home. JBBBS provided the best possible environment to learn from the skilled people around me. I could make mistakes, learn—believe me, sometimes I thought my head would explode—and try, try, try again. The agency gave me infinite space to do that.
Perhaps the most meaningful part of my internship was when I attended a match closure my first week and a match meeting my last day. At the closure meeting, although the Big, Little and clinical match specialists were all saying goodbye to one another, it was like sunshine was illuminating from the computer screen as they relived their moments together and planned for the next ones. This match had lasted 10 years—the Little from age 8 to 18, and going off to college—and they had a ball every second of it. Eight weeks later, I experienced a match meeting where the Big and 11-year-old Little were seeing each other in person for the very first time. They had no idea what was in store for them. Potentially, 10 years of joy were right around the corner.
I learned so much about the agency, interning, social work and outreach and myself, but to see a bittersweet ending and a sweet beginning was an invaluable experience. It is truly an honor being affiliated with this agency. I am reminded that amidst hatred, bigotry and chaos, there is still care, belonging, dedication and mentorship that can and will change a life.
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