Study Abroad Africa Blog

Student Spotlight

Emily Strobaugh spent the summer of 2016 interning with World Relief in Memphis, TN, and participating in the College Debate 2016, “A national, non-partisan initiative to empower young voters to identify issues and engage peers in the presidential election.”


Starting in June, Emily attended the opening sessions of the College Debate 2016. At the opening she and the delegates from around the states, heard form the California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, and Julie Winkour, maker of the film Bring it to the Table. According the College Debate 2016 website, The film challenges students to discuss how to use social media in a positive way to engage people in the election, bridge political divide, examine assumptions, and engage in civil discourse.

It was fitting that Emily’s summer was bookended by the College Debate 2016 experience. The majority of her summer was spent working with World Relief in Memphis, TN. According to the World Relief website, the organization works “with initiatives that focus on disaster response, health and child development, refugee and immigration services, economic development and peace building.”

Emily’s job for the summer was helping skilled refugees find work in their field of experience instead of minimum wage jobs. Her responsibilities also included teaching advanced English classes and how to effectively use PowerPoint once hired. She also helped individuals improve their interview skills, helped with networking workshops, and looked through resumes, editing for grammar and helped to make resume’s specific to a particular job application.

One of the struggles for Emily was convincing potential employers that the refugees were just as, if not more qualified, than they were perceived to be. “Most know multiple languages; English will be their third or fourth language. It was so humbling. Such smart and talented people and they are coming to me, a 19 year old and asking me to help them. I was so grateful to them but they were thanking me.”

She talked about finding a doctor a job in a doctor’s office – as a receptionist. “It was much lower than what they had been working in in their home country, but it was that much closer to where they wanted to be. And it was not a fast food restaurant.”

In September 2016 Emily returned to the College Debate 2016 event where student delegates from each state were placed in groups to come up with questions about issues that they felt needed to be addressed in the presidential debates. For Emily’s group, the final question put forward was hers: “What is your plan for aiding the employment of skilled refugees and immigrants in their respective fields?”

Emily was proud of that moment, but also humbled by it. “Believing that people cared enough about that specific immigration topic to vote it through-that was crazy cool.”

As Emily continues to pursue her double major in Global Studies and English, her goal is to continue working with refugees and immigrants. This summer she plans to study abroad in Nepal for a month, while exploring options to work with immigrants/migration support either in Nepal or back in the United States.

Her plans are to continue to work with refugees once she graduates; continuing to help the vulnerable to find their new place in the world.


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