Five Ways Interning at SURVIVORS Changed Me

SOTIAdmin Advocacy, Internship, Volunteering

Katherina at the 2018 Ice Cream Social

These past months with SURVIVORS has been an invaluable experience enriched by new lessons learnt, new skills and a better understanding of who I am and who I want to become. As the Community Relations intern, I assisted with the advocacy and outreach programs of the organization.  I also acted as the volunteer coordinator for the Annual Helping Survivors Heal Fundraising Luncheon. But my role did not stop there. I had the possibility to expand my responsibilities and work with other staff members of the organization for example the Clinical Case Manager and the Program Coordinator. My internship at SURVIVORS gave me a broad understanding of the work in a nonprofit and set the foundation for my future profession!


5 lessons I learned at SURVIVORS which have shaped my future career path:

  1. Belief in the mission of the organization: I will make sure that I will always look to work with and for organizations who are dedicated to their mission like SURVIVORS. I will continue to work for nonprofits who serve our international and refugee communities with missions I can stand behind and for. All the staff members and the communities involved with SURVIVORS are constantly dedicated  to caring for survivors of torture and helping them heal and thrive in a new community. It is really important that an organization is fully committed to their mission and when I work somewhere new I now know it must be a mission that I believe in, too. I will always be a supporter and friend to SURVIVORS.


  1. Greater sense of professionalism: My SURVIVORS’ internship was my first exposure to a professional work setting and I had the opportunities to work with a great staff and mentors from whom I could observe their ways of interaction with one another, clients, and other stakeholders. Working in the office environment at SURVIVORS helped me learn how to navigate the working world and the appropriate ways to behave as a professional while managing the challenges of an office setting. These are skills I will use throughout my career!


  1. More confidence in my knowledge and skills:As I started the internship I was doubtful of myself and I was unsure if I could have handled all the tasks assigned to me. It is, however, by taking these opportunities that you are able to learn the most about yourself and who you want to become. I was faced weekly with new projects and opportunities and I was more comfortable in my abilities to adapt and learn more and more every day. By the end of the internship, I am surely a different person who is more confident and aware of what I am capable of.


  1. New connections:Interning for SURVIVORS has given me a wealth of new connections. As the Community Relations Intern, I had the possibility to network in different settings and now I find myself to have a greater web of connections and understanding of the San Diego county nonprofit world which is very valuable. Also, I feel part of a dynamic and international team. By participating in outreach events, I interacted with different professionals and communities and it was one more learning experience on how to communicate in different settings. This internship not only helped me expand my connections but also find professional mentors!


  1. Creating my own career path: Interning surely helps you understand your interests and needs for your future. I believe SURVIVORS has helped me set the foundation for my future career because it gave me the right tools and knowledge to choose my career path. I have now a better understanding of my future. Also, during my internship here, I learnt what kind of compromises I am willing to make when I will start looking for a job and understand what I would never give up in the professional arena e.g. a passion for a mission I truly believe in.

Lastly, my internship at SURVIVORS confirmed for me that I want to keep working in this field. I want to be able to create a safe place for people in need, help them to integrate and restart their lives, and advocate for their rights. I want to be part of positive changes and of an organization that makes a difference for their clients. At SURVIVORS, I could write letters of encouragement and hope to our detained clients and many of these clients responded with letters which said things like “I am grateful there is an organization like yours that help people like me who only want to start all over again and have a normal life” and “You always give me hope and strength to keep me going and I feel that everything will be fine”. These words are so powerful and show me that what I am doing is worthwhile and I want to keep doing it in my future. Thank you SURVIVORS for this opportunity! I will never forget it or you all.

Examples of letters Katherina would send to non-criminal clients housed in immigration detention facilities