By Alejandra Salmeron, Marketing, Communications & Stakeholder Relations Intern
Summer is finally arriving, and with the changes in weather come new opportunities and experiences at The International Center. This is the first week for the 2013 summer interns, and as one of them, I’d like to share my story about how I got here and what this place means to me.
I move around a lot, certainly not as much as some people, but enough to know what it is like to leave home and start out again in a new city located in a different country. I was born in Mexico, and the first time I moved to Indianapolis I was six. To be honest, I don’t remember much about that move, because when you’re young it is much easier to make anywhere home, even language barriers can’t hold you back for too long. When I was thirteen I moved back to Mexico. That move was a little harder. I knew Spanish very well because I had never stopped speaking it at home, but I had grown used to the American culture, and switching back wasn’t very easy. Eventually I made friends and grew comfortable in my new surroundings and felt at home again.
Right after graduating high school, I moved with my parents back to Indianapolis. At this point I saw it as an opportunity. Because of timing, I had to wait six months before I could start college, so I had a little time to explore Indianapolis and get to know the city again, which had changed a lot since the last time I had been here, growing in size and diversity. There were new buildings, stores and roads, and in general it was much busier. I heard different languages everywhere, like at the store, or just walking down the street. Indianapolis was thriving, and I was delighted to find such an increasingly rich mixture of cultures within the city.
During this move, my family had the help of The International Center, and it made a significant difference in our experience. We had people help us with our driver’s licenses (which we all know is never easy anyway), the Social Security office, and finding a place to live, among other things. These are all tedious processes to go through, no matter how many times you’ve moved before, and having someone to guide you along the way was greatly appreciated by my family.
After we had settled in, my mother started going to COPE (Community Orientation Program for Expatriates) meetings, which she always came back happy from, because not only did she find what was discussed very useful, but she also found people going through the exact same emotions and experiences that she was. I decided I would go with her to a few of the meetings, and it was the first time I truly took the time to understand what The International Center was, and how essential it had been to this notable change I had seen in Indianapolis. It is so nice to have someone explain things to you that might seem like common knowledge to people who have lived here their whole lives, but are very new to others who are living in this country for the first time. For example, what to do if you get pulled over (don’t get out of the car), where to go if you need legal help, changes you need to make to your legal documents, things that you can do to keep yourself busy if working is not an option yet, and so on. This is all useful information that we would’ve had to go look for on our own had The International Center not existed… and to think, this is only one of the things that they do! What a difference they have made, not only in people’s individual lives, but also very notably in the growing openness of the city to diversity.
That was a little over two years ago. I just finished my second year of college at Indiana University, and when I was looking for something to do this summer, I remembered my experience at The International Center, and how interested I had been in everything that they did. I thought to myself how great it would be to become part of it for the summer and help make a difference as well. I found their internship program, applied for it, and can now say I am very excited to be one of their interns, on my way to learning more about this organization, the needs it is fulfilling and finally, why it is so unique and important in this increasingly diverse and internationally connected world. They have made an impact in my life, and now through them, I hope to be able to make an impact on others.