2021 Orientation: Virtual Internships

HUIYAO CHEN | BALTIMORE JOB HUNTERS SUPPORT GROUP

Orientation has been a challenge to me in multiple different ways. The disclosing nature of the orientation itself and the way it interacts with my other life events have made it both especially challenging and unexpectedly full of love and support. I have been traveling for almost 3 days of orientation to go from Singapore to New York and then back to Baltimore. The time difference, the accessibility of wi-fi, and the specific concerns and difficulties posed by COVID-19 on traveling have made my first several days not so engaging as others’. And the highly engaging nature of the orientation and the demand for personal vulnerability sharing have become even more difficult in this situation. I have worried about missing on stuff and being marginalized just because I didn’t get to participate that well from the beginning. However, I have received unexpectedly constant and warm support and affirmation from my peer mentor Claire and leaders like Reah, Bentley, and Eli. They have given me detailed information regarding the parts that I have missed and the parts that we’ve gone through while may wish to go back to; most importantly, they have supported me with love, understanding, and appreciation, especially my mentor Claire. I have been so distant, yet also so connected all the time thru the orientation.

And every part of the orientation has been such a joy for me. I love listening to different guest speakers who work in different parts of Baltimore and different roles while aiming for similar goals to improve health, wellbeing, and justice issues in Baltimore. It has been like a sociology + pre-practicum series of course, while each lesson takes a unique form. And one of my favorites is the Theatre group’s interactive session! I have also been greatly appreciating the afternoon small groups, as we have sufficient time and a warm and safe space to share, listen, and learn. I really appreciate and enjoy everyone’s extraordinary willingness and courage to be vulnerable, while knitting a safe net/secure space for each other and listen with great genuineness and love. These are very precious moments that not only helped me to comfortable share and listen but also to sense the powerful interpersonal bond and connection.

CIONNE GATES | BY PEACEFUL MEANS

Even though I have been a Hopkins student for two years, I never fully realized the privilege of associating with this identity when entering different areas of Baltimore. In fact, from the recent workshops elaborating on the tumultuous history of Baltimore and its citizen, I am appalled at the relationship this institution has with the people of their own local communities. Now going forward, I will respectfully disregard my positionality as a Hopkins college student, so I can better influence the next generation of Baltimore citizens with positivity and strong-willed thoughts to acknowledge the systematic oppression and institutional racism in their own neighborhoods. Thankfully, from these insightful workshops I gained a more introspective outlook on the dynamics between the people and medical institutions within the city. This challenge has helped me overcome my preconceived connotations of how many prestigious opportunities developed by Hopkins while I currently consider the psychological consequences their decision has on the underrepresented citizens of color. Despite this eye-opening revelation, there was one particular workshop, executed by the TAG workshop that I thoroughly enjoyed. Often times, I rarely communicate my personal conflicts or challenges I went through in light of people’s opinions of me. From this interactive segment, I was encouraged to be vulnerable and outspoken at the same time, which enabled me to recognize how I have overcome certain obstacles in my life yet still able to engage in discussion with someone else. Interestingly, both aspects of the orientation combined my primary goals for this summer experience: become more actively engaged in the history and culture of the Baltimore environment as well as find healthy conflict resolutions that are effective for the children and me. Given this has only been one week of integrative workshops, I am excited and optimistic about what the rest of the summer brings!

KUSH KATARIA | JUBILEE ARTS

Orientation was a lot of fun and really challenged me in ways I did not expect. It forced to ponder about tough and difficult questions and open my perspective. It taught me a lot, like how to be an ally to others and the history of Baltimore. It further really exposed me to the history of Johns Hopkins and the injustices they were a part of in the past. I am very glad for this opportunity and can’t wait to bring all that I have learned to my internship. I really enjoyed the peer mentee groups which allowed for meaningful discussions. I enjoyed the scavenger hunt which was a lot of fun and was a fun time to interact with my fellow CIIPers. It also taught me a lot about navigating Baltimore which I had not known about prior. Even though I am not doing my internship in person in Baltimore, this activity gave me a bunch of cool and interesting places I hope to visit in the future and taught me how to effectively use the public transport system.

The TAG workshop was also one of my personal favorite just because I simply never experienced anything like this before. I was expecting more of a lecture type presentation, but their program was super engaging and interactive. I loved the break out rooms and specifically the “I can tell you about” activity where everyone was super vulnerable and I got to know my fellow peers more closely. Also the activity in pairs of 3 where we had to create a dance was very enjoyable as everyone was super helpful and asking these hard questions. The culmination of which was a group dance everyone doing their individual dance moves. It was very heartwarming to see everyone spotlighted and dancing and I really enjoyed it.

Overall I really enjoyed Orientation, even though at times Zoom fatigue was hitting, and loved getting to know my fellow peers and head into my internship excited and ready to create meaningful change.

FATIMA MENDOZA | OUT FOR JUSTICE

It is no secret that the pandemic continues to affect how we interact and our events. Despite having the orientation in a virtual setting, it was still a fun and interactive experience. Even in a virtual setting, there were a lot of good memories and connections made and that is all thanks to all of the people working behind the scenes and the peer mentors that managed to pull it off. One of the challenges of having this virtual orientation was the time difference. It was a 3 hour time difference, so it was an early event for me. Honestly, those were the two biggest challenges of orientation – time difference and the virtual nature of it. However, they were not too significant because I have been dealing with these issues during this past year. Content-wise, I was challenged by realizing I need to make space and time for myself and have a clear divide between my work and home space. This was more clear throughout this week because I will be virtual for my internship. One of the more surprising moments of orientation was during one of the lectures that went in-depth on the complicated history of Hopkins and the city. I knew of some of the things that Hopkins did, but not to this extent and how much was done. Furthermore, it solidified one of the other lessons we received, which is to respect the context and history of a policy or a way of doing things in the organizations we are working in. Also, we need to be cognizant of how we show up to the community given who we are affiliated with and their relationship with the city. Overall, what I enjoyed the most during orientation was the “exploring” Baltimore activity and all the little challenges we had to complete at each location.

MELANIE PILLACA-GUTIERREZ | OFFICE OF COUNCILMEMBER ZEKE COHEN

I can definitely say this week was like nothing I have experienced before! Besides having orientation be online, the whole week was marked by meaningful and at times surprising moments that have set the tone for the rest of the summer. Some of the best aspects of orientation were the people who I met, through my peer mentor group or during moments of vulnerability during interesting conversations. The challenge came from engaging in these deep conversations over Zoom. At the beginning of the week, I found it difficult to be present at times. It has been a couple of weeks since the spring semester ended and I was in the Zoom classroom all day, so getting back into that reality took some mental resetting. Considering I will be working remotely, I think this orientation was the crucial metaphorical push into the deep end that is the virtual setting.

My favorite part of the orientation was definitely the sessions we had on the final day about Baltimore history and our relationship to the city as Hopkins students. Hearing the instances of harm Hopkins has caused, re-strengthened the motivation I had to further understand how the city’s history shapes its present and how I can portray this to my community at Hopkins and beyond. Learning about this history also reaffirms the notion I hold that marginalized populations are not just living tragedies but that they encompass diverse perspectives and so much potential that manifests in abundant ways. Overall this past week’s orientation provided me the tools to enter the internship in order engage with community in meaningful ways. It also made me super excited to experience all that I will learn even if it’s remotely!

SUZY SCHLOSBERG | CENTRAL BALTIMORE PARTNERSHIP

Orientation was challenging for me in expected and unexpected ways. Getting used to being vulnerable and authentic with people who I didn’t know until this week was really hard sometimes. Being in breakout rooms with one or two people made me realize how much discomfort I experience when I am seen and heard. I don’t think I’ve ever had trainings like this, and I definitely haven’t had experiences like this at Hopkins. I realized how grateful I am to be in this space, a space where people want to share their stories, their wisdom, their humor. In the large Zoom room with everyone, I didn’t contribute as much as I did in smaller rooms; I felt like there was so much more that I wanted to listen to, than I wanted to say. I want to find a better balance between those two things as I move forward in this program. I really enjoyed a lot of the more active workshops that we had, particularly the TAG workshops— I think the opening “I can tell you about…” is going to stay with me for a long time. Some of the brief, small activities also left a deep impression on me. When we did our bend our privilege towards justice stretch, I felt recharged just by connecting with ourselves for a few minutes. Reading the notes that we posted on the virtual wall, outlining all of our individual dreams, hopes, fears, anxieties, made me feel a lot less alone going into my internship. I am home in Chicago, and not with the rest of my cohort, but I still felt like we were going in united by a bond we had established this week. I also learned so much more about the history and ongoing legacy of Hopkins in Baltimore and recognized how much reflecting I will need to continue to do about what it means to be a Hopkins student engaging community work. Despite having gained so much knowledge this week, I come out of it more aware than ever of how little I know about Baltimore communities, people, and what nonprofit work really means. I look forward to learning.

STACEY TANG | THREAD

If someone told me that this past week, I would become a part of a community where we are able to bond over our vulnerabilities, be allowed to get messy and dissect our own roles as Hopkins students within Baltimore yet still laugh about impromptu freestyle raps and be able to tour Baltimore from the comfort of our home, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second. Forming friendships and a sense of community seems so difficult over a virtual platform, but in the short time that we were together, I was amazed about the safe and welcoming space that was created by all the CIIP interns!

I entered orientation unsure about what to expect and felt especially isolated knowing that I was one of the very few among the group that hasn’t even stepped in Baltimore because of the pandemic and would be unable to be in Baltimore over the summer. However, I’m coming out of orientation in awe not only because of the inspiring people that I have met in this group or the powerful reflections that have been stirred by informative workshops but because of how in such a short amount of time, the whole way that I perceive myself and the position that I am currently in took a complete 180. It was personally difficult for me to wrestle with all of the perceptions and judgments about Baltimore and society as a whole that have been ingrained into my mind by stereotypes and those around me, but I’m grateful for the space that orientation has provided for me to seriously reflect and contemplate on these challenges. One thing that was personally unsettling for me was the relationship between Hopkins and the citizens surrounding Hopkins and how historically, the citizens were almost disposable in the eyes of Hopkins. This not-so-pretty side of Hopkins made me reconsider how students at Thread may perceive Hopkins students like me and really encouraged me to come into Thread with open ears and to learn about the history of the organization so that I can contribute to the team with the proper context and intentions. Furthermore, I am aware that my background and experiences differ from the students and members of the Baltimore community that I may encounter. I was worried that this would interfere with my ability to effectively contribute to my team, but I’m optimistic about delving further into my own personal identity during this experience and finding the common thread that can connect me with members of the Baltimore community. I’m excited for what is to come in these eight weeks and know there will be several challenges along the way, but it’s all a part of the journey in learning how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

CLAIRE ZOU | PEER MENTOR

Throughout the TAG workshop, my mouse hovered over the “raise hand” button as I wavered between taking space and making space. The feeling was familiar. Three summers ago, during my first CIIP orientation, I justified keeping my hand down by telling myself that I didn’t know enough. I was just a rising sophomore then, barely keeping up with all the new information about the nonprofit sector and cultural competency and Baltimore’s history. I couldn’t form my thoughts fast enough to share them before the topic changed. The next CIIP orientation, I participated somewhat more, but only relative to the previous summer. I told myself that, because I was a Peer Mentor, I should give as much space as possible to the new interns, that it was their turn to build community through the vulnerable conversations we were having. If I was being honest with myself though, my reticence was coming from a place of anxiety rather than self-awareness.

The same was true during this past week of orientation, especially during the TAG workshop. Given the virtual format of TAG this time, so many of the discussions unfolded in unexpected ways that I had a new observation or reflection always on the tip of my tongue. But that’s where they stayed, as I retreated my mouse from the “raise hand” button over and over again, afraid to be inarticulate and forfeiting my turn to take space.

Debriefing the workshop with my mentees afterwards, I realized I had company in this sentiment. One of my mentees explained that, as an East Asian-American woman, she felt unsure when it was appropriate for her to speak in these spaces, because her identity often made her peripheral to these conversations. That was exactly it for me too. Where does my voice fit in, if at all, when I am adjacent to so much privilege? Or am I just internalizing the stereotype of the passive Asian woman who is supposed to shrink herself? Throughout orientation, these tensions were constantly wrestling in the back of my mind. Now as I reflect on them, I am reminded of something Clarissa said at the YNOT lot vigil for the victims of the Atlanta shooting. She spoke to a similar internal conflict and eventually concluded that, yes, it is okay to take up more space as an Asian American woman because so much of that space has never been claimed. The space is waiting for us, whether we show up as leaders or allies. Even as I write this, I can feel myself wanting to delete this reflection, or at least put it on private view, because the thought of taking up space is profoundly uncomfortable for me. But slowly—very slowly—I am unlearning.

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