Summer Centered: Shu Min He ’19 Welcomes Refugees to Philadelphia
The anthropology major is supporting immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers at HIAS Pennsylvania, which provides legal, resettlement, support, and citizenship services to these populations to ensure their fair treatment and integration into American society.
For Shu Min He ’19, the road to an internship at HIAS Pennsylvania began two and a half years ago, when the anthropology major became acquainted with the organization through a Philadelphia-focused service trip with the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC).
"What interested me about HIAS was its mission to serve immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers for free or low cost,” she said of the organization that provides legal, resettlement, supportive, and citizenship services to these populations to ensure their fair treatment and integration into American society.
Now working with HIAS as a summer intern with support from the CPGC, the organization’s focus also resonates with He, a QuestBridge scholar, on a personal level.
"QuestBridge awarded me with full-ride scholarship to college due to my academic standing in high school and my low-income status,” she said. “I associate both my motivations in life and low-income status to my immigrant background [He immigrated from China when she was 13 years old]. The refugees I interact with at HIAS remind me of my earliest days in America, almost nine years ago. They remind me that fundamental disadvantages to newcomers in this country have not changed, such as language barriers and cultural shock.”
As an intern within the Refugee and Resettlement Unit of HIAS, He divides her time between accompanying refugees to doctor and social service appointments across the city and doing office work and writing case notes in the organization’s Center City headquarters.
"There’s flexibility to my work that makes it hard to be boring, and there’s structure to this work that fits with my work style,” she said. “I hope to get a clearer sense of my professional goals, and discover whether I want to lean more into the legal or social work industry. I also hope to become more knowledgeable about populations that this [presidential] administration seeks to reject.”
As a rising senior, He also sees the potential applications of her summer internship to her future coursework and anthropology thesis.
"I’ve always wanted to write about immigrants and refugees for my anthropology senior thesis,” she said. “Interacting with refugees on a daily basis at my internship forces myself to examine my cultural capital, encourages me to understand these populations in the least subjective way and shapes my post-undergrad career plans.”
He’s work with HIAS won’t end when this summer does—she’s accepted an offer from the organization to continue working as an intern during the fall semester.
"This internship has confirmed my career plan to do direct service and advocacy work with refugees and immigrants,” she said.