Securing an internship at Foraging Opportunities for Refugees in America (FORA), senior Nabila Siddiqui splits her time after school between homework and interning. Based in Chicago, the FORA organization tutors refugee children from all over the world via Zoom. Many of the children are from Rohingya, Syria, or Palestine and currently live in Chicago.
“We set up tutors from all over the country with these children and help them with math, English, or homework from school. I actually work under the director. He offered me a spot to work under him because he liked my energy,” Siddiqui said.
Intern duties require Siddiqui to resolve any difficulties or challenges students and tutors may be experiencing. She also aids in recruiting new tutors and matching them with students. FORA also helps the students learn and assimilate into American society and school.
“What I do is, at the end of the day, I look at the feedback sheet from the tutors and contact them to work out any problems they have. I also translate because I can speak Urdu. There are a lot of kids over there that only speak Urdu. I also recently started tutoring one of the kids. I also do anything else they need such as filling out paperwork. They just send it my way and I get it done,” Siddiqui said.
Applying for the internship early in the summer of 2020, Siddiqui was rejected due to the influx of intern applications received over the summer; however, the story behind her landing the internship reflects her determination.
“It was unconventional. In mid-December I received an email from them saying they needed interns, but when I opened it, it was five days later. They had a number on the email and I remember thinking, ‘You know what? What’s the worst that can happen?’, so I called it. I didn’t know I accidentally called the director at 10:30 p.m. on a Wednesday,” Siddiqui said.
Not realizing the difference in time zones and unaware of who was on the other side of the line, Siddiqui introduced herself to the unamused Michael O’Connor.
“He picked up and I said, ‘My name is Nabila Siddiqui and you need to give me this internship.’ He said I couldn’t get the job just by calling him and that the phone call was a grand gesture,” Siddiqui said.
O’Connor told her FORA would conduct an interview before she qualified for the internship; plus, it was already late in the evening. Siddiqui persevered and was determined to get the job.
“He asked for my name again and said my file stated I lived in Arkansas. I took the chance and said we could do the interview right then because he had my file in front of him,” Siddiqui said.
After her persistence, the director gave Siddiqui 15 minutes to impress him. If he liked her after those 15 minutes, the internship was hers. Liking her directness and fiery attitude, he granted Siddiqui the job.
“My internship at FORA is a wonderful opportunity. I’m so glad I got the chance to do it. It really gave me a lot of insight into the lives of refugees and the struggles they face. This experience is going to assist me in my future career because I plan on going into conflict resolution and rebuilding infrastructure in tumultuous areas,” Siddiqui said.
Working 15 hours per week, Siddiqui continues her internship until August when
FORA will present her with the opportunity to continue her training or hand it off to her successor.
“I will absolutely continue the internship. All in all, I’m glad I get to help out with such an amazing cause,” Siddiqui said.