What if I said that you could travel the world in four weeks? How about travel the world in four weeks without ever having to leave Rhode Island? Over the summer, I did that epic holidays!
I was incredibly blessed with the opportunity to not just take on an internship that could teach me professional skills, but I also had the ability to make friends with people from over 30 different countries. I sampled dishes cooked by people from Italy, Nepal, Tibet, India and more. I ate lunch with a social entrepreneur from Columbia who builds homes for the poor, befriended a journalist from Nagaland, India, hung out with the first woman ever elected to public office in Afghanistan and shook Senator Jack Reed’s hand.
Where does this exist, you may ask? All these exciting opportunities exist in the heart of campus, in the Multicultural Student Services Center. On the second floor of this very important building lies the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies. The majority of students do not even know this place exists. I, however, was blessed to be given an internship to work for the center, helping to run their 17th annual Kingian Nonviolence Summer Institute. What I did not know was I would be learning much more valuable skills than just how to mail, merge and market events. I learned what it is like to put myself in the shoes of someone from Nigeria and the political perspectives of an indigenous population in rural India called the Naga. Most importantly, I learned that we are all people, whether it be from one end of the world or another.
This year, 17 countries and 14 states were represented at the University of Rhode Island. While other students were out at the beach, I was inside meeting some of the greatest people this world has to offer. They traveled thousands of miles, some emptying their bank accounts and traveling for days just to attend this training program. Why? They were all motivated beyond anything else to bring peace to this world and their communities. I met people who grew up during the Liberian civil war, one of the bloodiest civil wars to date. However, not only did I have the chance to meet people from all over the world, I was also able to meet some of the most notable civil rights leaders in American history. I talked to one of the Big Six Civil Rights Leaders and the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies’ founder, Bernard LaFayette. I was also able to meet the CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, who slipped me his business card.
Never did I think that the little psychology major, coming out of my first year of college, would be given an internship. I also never dreamed about an opportunity to listen to people from thousands of miles away, yet here I am. Four intensive weeks in the beginning of the summer, and I emerge with an entirely new perspective on the world and some new best friends from across the globe. It is easy to view others from other countries as sort of separated from you. However, it is different when you can know and hear from them, or when you see them pop up on your Facebook feed. After all, how many times in one year have you thought about the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s ongoing violence? The Naga people in India? How about Colombia’s poverty problem? My guess is not a lot. So this year, when you look for an internship, consider this: how many places can send you to more than 30 countries in four weeks without ever having to leave Rhode Island?