A major component of studying abroad is getting to know a new culture on more than just the surface level you might experience when visiting a country for a week or two on a vacation. Syracuse University Abroad alumnus Wilson Ho chose to deepen his understanding of the French culture in Strausbourg by taking an internship at a domestic violence shelter. Below he details what he did in his internship and how it strengthened his connection with the local community.
Name: Wilson Ho
Major: International Relations & French
School: Maxwell School/ Arts & Sciences
Project/Internship: Intern with a domestic violence shelter for battered women (Spring and Summer 2013)
Description: “I did two internships while I was abroad in Strasbourg during spring ’13 and summer ’13. My more memorable internship experience was at a domestic violence shelter for battered women. Originally I wanted to learn more about social work in France and engage myself more with the local community, which was why I thought this internship would be suitable for me. The internship turned out to be a little bit from what I had expected. I thought I was going to be exposed and assigned to complete a lot of social and legal work related tasks, but because of my limited proficiency in French, I was only able to learn about how the system works – how each victim gets admitted and how each profile is created etc. In the later phase of my internship, I started planning weekly activities for women and their children to participate in. I discovered that most of the women admitted into the shelter were some sort of immigrants, meaning that their level of education and communication skills (French) were somewhat limited. I took the women and their children out to parks and swimming pools and even libraries to keep them entertained. I believe one of my greatest and most memorable projects that I completed during my internship was painting a wall in the backyard of the center. My supervisor and I decided to add some characteristics to the current center. We did some planning and research and decided to paint a picture of a woman’s face that consists of flying birds. The significance behind the birds is that it shows mobility, liberty, and independence – which are the characteristics that we wish women not only in this center, but everywhere would posses. We proposed this idea and got approved and had a number of women involved in it. It turned out to be a successful project which everyone enjoyed! I thought this was a pretty rare and unforgettable experience for me because what I study at school (International Relations & French – double major) doesn’t really have a direct link to the content of my work, yet I was able to apply what I learned at school to different situations during my internship. This experience was rare in the sense that I don’t think I would have been able to communicate and help such diverse group of people. I met women from the Philippines, Turkey, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso! Interacting with such diverse groups of people made me become a better listener, as well as sharpened my intercultural awareness. I learned more than just different cultures but also different ways of interacting with people.”