Connections and Conversation

A Reflection on COPE Sessions
By Corinne O’Brien, Global Competency Intern

The mood in the room was one of mutual understanding and appreciation. Each of the women that participated in the Community Orientation Program for Expatriates (COPE) session has an entirely unique background, yet they share a powerful common bond.
COPE is a service offered by The International Center in Indianapolis that connects relocated individuals with their community and, perhaps more importantly, with each other. Topics range from American customs and holidays, healthcare, education, law enforcement, work and volunteer opportunities, and cultural differences. The primary topic at this session was navigating the complexities of applying for work authorization. It is difficult, time-consuming, and in some cases impossible for them to continue their professions in business, engineering, and teaching since moving to the United States. Darby Casady facilitated the conversation, assisted by Ikue Shirayanagi, Relocation Services Coordinator.

I found myself fascinated by a recent COPE session that I attended in our office.

The women were Swiss, Japanese, Lebanese, French, Puerto Rican and American. Some came to the United States for college while others are brand new to the country; some have lived in multiple countries while others have lived in one; some are very comfortable with English while others struggle to communicate the way that they would like. But the list of differences between them ends here…

They have unparalled commonalities despite widely varied backgrounds and countries of origin. One woman, Marta, shared her experiences with the group. After moving to the United States from Puerto Rico, where she lived exclusively previously, she struggled with the language, cultural differences, and shyness. However, before long she learned to embrace these struggles and just enjoy. As she recounted her experiences, the others in the room nodded—they understood and related completely.

Although many practical tips and tricks were imparted during this session, I think the importance of this COPE session lay more in its unique ability to connect these women over their shared experiences. I feel lucky that they were so gracious to allow me to hear their stories. I believe that the work done by COPE and our Relocation Specialists is essential to furthering The International Center’s mission of making Indiana a welcoming place for international newcomers through education, understanding and open dialogue.

To Carine, Marta, Valerie, and Manuela — thank you!
Best of luck.