Sorensen Fellows reflect on summer journeys

The six fellows had internships that took them around the globe

From left: Ibrahima Diaboula, Elad Mehl, Sneha Walia, Shane Weitzman, Ngobitak Ndiwane and Shimon Mazor.

When the six Sorensen Fellows returned from their internships over the summer, each had an experience that would stay with them forever.

The Fellows described their summer journeys in a presentation, "From Looking to Bearing Witness," at the Alumni Lounge in Usdan Student Center Dec. 9.

The program, which began in 1998, is sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life and honors the late Theodore C. "Ted" Sorensen, an advisor and speechwriter for John F. Kennedy and the founding chair of the center's international advisory board.

Selected after a competitive application process, the fellows received a stipend to cover travel and living expenses for a summer internship and took a course of their choosing in the spring as academic preparation. In the fall semester, they regrouped and took a course together providing perspective on their experience.

Shane Weitzman ’16 went to Hubli, India to work with the Deshpande Foundation, an organization that encourages local entrepreneurship to solve social problems. His time in India prompted him to think about the lessons often considered most important in cultural exchanges.

"What could happen if we taught ourselves that valuing our commitment and connection to one another is a skill worth learning, even if it will never have a place on our resume. What if we taught love instead of conformity?" he said during the presentation.

Sneha Walia '15 worked for the U.S. Department of Education's College Access initiative in Washington, D.C. She said her experience with administrators, teachers and fellow interns caused her to reflect on who has access to important decision making.

"A lot of what I learned at the crux of my internship experience was about power," she said.

A native of Guinea, Ibrahima Diaboula '16 returned there to work with Qui Veut Peut, a Guinean non-profit organization that focuses on children's rights and education. He developed a lasting connection with several of his young students, he said.

"When I wake up, I still think about these kids," he said.

Elad Mehl '16 spent his summer at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, in Warsaw. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Poland and Slovakia, and the experience provided him an opportunity to connect with his roots. His father gave him a written account of the story of his grandparents survival when he left for Warsaw.

"We had the story for years at home, but I never had the courage to open it," he said. "After a few weeks in the museum and seeing Poland for a few weeks with my own eyes, I began to feel more comfortable."

Slowly, Mehl read the account, and then visited the places his grandparents lived.

Shimon Mazor ’16 went to Nairobi, Kenya for an internship with Kenya Social Ventures thinking he would be working on business plans and marketing schemes, but he realized his focus would be on a more human level.

"My work, at the most basic level, was to create collaborations, to create trust, that was my main accomplishment," he said.

Ngobitak Ndiwane ’16 had an internship with Atorkor Development Foundation in Atorkor, Ghana, where she was a teaching assistant for elementary and high school aged children, as well as an intern at the local medical clinic.

"As long as you're ready to learn and as long as you're open, that's all the preparation you need," she said.

“From Looking to Bearing Witness”, the anthology of the Fellows’ writing about their experiences can be found here.

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