Summer Centered: Noorie Chowdhury '21 Aids Refugees in Greece
The independent studies major is spending her summer with the Refugee Youth Service in Athens, Greece, where she’s supporting the city’s young refugee community.
Whether with an independently created major or a self-designed internship, Noorie Chowdhury ’21 has always forged her own path. This summer, aided by funding from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Chowdhury has crafted her own opportunity as an intern at Velos Youth, an Athens-based center for young refugees.
At Velos, Chowdhury helps facilitate a safe space for the many young refugees who have come to Greece seeking asylum, largely from Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan. Her duties are malleable, shifting to fit the needs of the day and whoever comes to visit the center. This often accomplished through community workshops or individual support sessions.
“Personally, I conduct learning support sessions to help with literacy and support any other formal education courses that the youth might be pursuing, help translate to Urdu and Bangla for the workshops and other sessions at the center, and engage in conversations with the young people, ranging topically from our common cultural traditions to what it means to be happy, and their favorite Bollywood films,” said Chowdhury.
Thinking creatively and working on the fly isn’t new to Chowdhury, who has designed her own independent major in philosophy, politics, and economics. Her self-designed curriculum has exposed her to many of the sociopolitical issues that she addresses at Velos.
“In the context that I am working in, displacement and integration are issues that are deeply tied with political and economic unrest and the search for a better political-economic environment,” she said. “Working at Velos has only reinforced and reinvigorated my desire to undertake a nuanced and interdisciplinary approach to studying these crises.”
Among the assortment of classes the rising junior has taken, she lists “Grassroots Economies: Creating Livelihoods in an Age of Urban Inequality,” which was taught by Associate Professor Craig Borowiak, as being particularly beneficial to contextualizing her work at the grassroots organization. Just as useful to Chowdhury, who came to Haverford from her home in India, has been her own personal experience.
“I am the first Bangla speaker that has ever worked in the space, and this has in some ways helped bring in more native speakers to use the center,” she said. “Speaking the same language as some of the young people has been a way of establishing an instant connection and comfort level with the young people which I have seen helps them feel much more at ease in the environment.”
Chowdhury’s daily interactions with visitors to the center and her time in Athens has offered her an array of educational opportunities and connections. With a major election for Greece occuring earlier this month, she’s found herself particularly immersed in the nation’s political scene, which has proved especially informative for her studies.
“There are some things I am learning by working at Velos I know I would not be able to in a classroom, but my work here is also being guided by what I’ve learned at Haverford in an indispensable way—for this I’m truly grateful,” she said.
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.