Thank you again for supporting an internship for an International Studies student at DePaul University. As that internship has now been completed, we want to share with you some notes on the experience that the student-intern provided in her internship report. This would not have been possible without you!
I interned for Blue Tin Production in Chicago, Illinois. As a daughter of Syrian and Palestinian immigrants, an International Studies major, Public Relations minor, and as someone involved in intersectional activism on DePaul’s campus, I was drawn to Blue Tin Production’s mission and values. Blue Tin Production gives refugee and immigrant women an opportunity to apply their brilliant sewing skills in a space that is non-exploitative and where they can manage themselves. I applied to be an intern because I wanted to apply my knowledge and skills that I have so far gained through the International Studies and Public Relations programs at DePaul University and my experience in student organizing and activism.
At the internship, my role is to be a translator and a project assistant. I have to orally translate conversations, meetings, or convey information. My role can be difficult because I have to ensure everything is being communicated accurately. I must ensure that everyone feels connected, involved and represented in the interactions. I am also a project assistant. I worked on the launch of the sewing co-op, fundraising, research, and event planning. I researched media and press outlets to reach out to for Blue Tin’s online and production launch. I would seek out media outlets that are related to fashion and focused on women of color. I researched designers in Chicago and nationally for Blue Tin to work with. This involved researching designers who are ethical. I would search for fashion incubators in the U.S. for Blue Tin to connect with. I completed research relating to social media outreach, specifically Blue Tin’s Instagram page. I took part in event planning at the cooperative, which involves planning the speakers, performances, and venue selection for fundraising events and dinners.
Furthermore, on a day to day basis, I took part in smaller tasks such as working with clients to discuss the improvements needed on samples and then translating these conversations and notes to the women. I developed a small dictionary of Arabic-English fashion/sewing terminology because I was very new to the vocabulary in both languages. During my internship, my boss was out of town for a few weeks for work. During this time, I was responsible for making sure payments went out, for attending to clients, for ensuring the production of clothing, and keeping notes on the clients’ feedback.
At Blue Tin Production, I dramatically improved my Arabic language skills. Before my internship, my Arabic vocabulary relating to fashion or business was limited. I struggled to learn to quickly translate from Arabic to English and vice versa. But, the relationship was not just one-way. The Syrian women helped me with specific vocabulary and with mistakes I made. I felt very comfortable because the women felt as if they were family members and we would teach each other. This environment made for a very unique learning experience. I did not expect to feel as comfortable as I did with the work of translation. Also, this internship was my first experience in a fashion space. Over time, I learned the specifics of fashion making, from patterns, to samples, to draping, etc. And I became comfortable relating to this work and its processes in English and Arabic.
I am very happy with the impact the internship has had on me. I am very pleased to have participated in the internship for two consecutive quarters. I was able to apply skills and knowledge from International Studies and Public Relations into tasks such as planning events and fundraisers for an ethical cause. My skills in Arabic have improved immensely while working at the cooperative, while also building very close relationships with the women. Working at Blue Tin Production was a unique experience because of the close-knit environment. In addition, I appreciated working in an intergenerational space. The women and the family atmosphere reminded me of my family members back home. I greatly appreciated the moments the women opened up to me about their stories of trauma, relationship abuse, and war. Furthermore, listening to how the cooperative has made them feel empowered was inspiring. Listening to these stories led me to research how sewing and embroidery is form of healing trauma for my Political Trauma class.
Thank you again for your contribution. It allowed our student to have a truly transformative learning experience. Your gift will have a lifetime of impact on our student, and on the women she assisted at Blue Tin Production!