Now that I've been back at Oberlin for a week, I've officially settled in and gotten used to life on campus again. I'm not gonna lie - at first it was very weird to be here. When I opened the door to my dorm room for the first time in over a month, I was immediately struck by how small and how messy it was, as if during my absence it would magically grow and clean itself. I've never woken up from a coma, but I imagine it feeling like how I felt returning, at first to Houston and then later Oberlin. Everything looked the same, but different somehow. It was odd, feeling like I had never left, like the last few months were only an elaborate dream. Odd, but nice. I settled back into my old life easily, finally with a double bed and a record player and a TV that I didn't have to share with anyone, not to mention home cooked meals. Also, WARM AND SUNNY WEATHER! (Not for all of my stay - Houston weather is very finicky - just the last few weeks.) It was lovely to be back for a longer amount of time because I didn't go home for Thanksgiving, and fall break was only a week. I got to see my friends from high school, none of whom I had seen since August at the latest. I did A LOT of shopping. I watched the majority of Scandal and all of Broad City. I tried to cook a few meals (mostly) by myself. I listened to a lot of records while flipping through old issues of Nylon magazine. I took many trips to Target and enjoying driving my car again (Oh Veronica, how I missed you!) I got to spend my birthday at home, which was nice but strange since it was with absolutely no friends, just my parents. We saw my favorite musical, The Book of Mormon and I got a free cupcake from Sprinkles, so it ended up being a great day.
For my winter term project, I wanted to do an internship not only to pad my resume and make connections, but I also wanted to learn skills that I could take with me to other jobs. I plan on majoring in politics and minoring in gender studies, so I wanted to do something involved with either of those areas. I asked my mom if she knew of any good opportunities for me, so she reached out to her friends and colleagues. One of her co-workers at the bank is on the board of an organization called Children at Risk, which is where I ended up doing my internship. Children at Risk is a public policy and law center dealing with children's issues, as the name would suggest. They have different departments such as public education, health and nutrition, and parenting, but I was in the human trafficking department. I knew a little bit about human trafficking already, especially how big of a problem it is in Houston, and as it deals mostly with young women, I thought it would be a good fit.
Going into my winter project, I really didn't know what to expect. When I stopped by the offices during fall break, I was given a tour and met lots of people, but upon asking what exactly I'd be doing, no one seemed to know. I was kind of an unofficial intern, not only because I didn't get paid, but also because they have established internship programs for law school graduates and those pursuing social work, which are two categories I didn't fit into. I worked with the two lawyers who comprise most of the human trafficking department. Each day was different, and I didn't really have any specific duties. I was really just there to help out where needed. I worked from around 9:30 to 3:30, although I didn't really have any set hours, and they were pretty flexible so it was different everyday. Different tasks I completed included data entry, copyediting, research, drafting a newsletter, reading and summarizing proposed legislature, and writing radio commentary. Although it's not the most exciting activity, it was cool for me to have access to and being able to read the actual bills that were being created in the Texas state senate because it meant that I was seeing real actual politics in the flesh (err - electronic paper flesh?) Texas just started a new legislative session with a new governor in charge, so there is a lot on the human trafficking prevention agenda this year. Not only did I learn a lot more about this terrible crisis that's going on right here in America, I learned about who the key players were and got a better understanding of statewide politics. At first it was kind of weird for me to have a typical office job, with a desk and a computer and a lunch break. I've only ever had one job before, and that was essentially as a camp counselor, so it was a totally different kind of experience. The nice thing was that even though it looked like a boring office job on paper, it didn't really feel that way. Everyone was doing such important work, and even when I was doing a small, seemingly meaningless task, I knew that I was contributing to something substantial. My favorite thing I got to do there was writing two different radio commentaries. Children at Risk has a radio show on KPFT 90.1, the independent radio station in Houston. My task was to do research on an issue affecting children, and come up with a dialogue from it. I enjoyed getting to see whole process because I started out searching the Internet for articles, jotted down notes, turned those notes into a dialogue for two people, and then I got to hear that dialogue a few days later. My first commentary was about the negative effects of too much technology on children's development and my second was on life after human trafficking. It was both weird and cool to hear something that I spent so much time on being broadcast on the radio for everyone to hear.
All in all, my winter term internship was a worthwhile experience. It was fun to get a taste of what life might be like after graduation, and I think I was able to do something that had a positive impact.