Baltimore skyline large

Image from Flickr.

This past summer, I was an intern for Teach for America, Baltimore. For those of you who don’t know, Teach for America is national non-profit that seeks to improve the education of children in low income areas. This organization recruits people to become teachers in schools, where the majority of students are impoverished, for a commitment of two years. I work for the District, School, and State Partnerships team, which mainly focuses on the placement of teachers. This is what I have experienced:

1. I have learned more about the real world from scanning, filing, and organizing paperwork than from most of my classes in high school. I have yet to use my knowledge of covalent bonds or any of Newton’s laws at work.

2. When the printers is down, the whole world stands still.

3. When the office celebrates someone’s birthday, everything is good in the world.

4. You can never have too many pens or labels.

5. Coffee is disgusting, no matter how many Splenda’s you add to it. But, I’ll probably still try the coffee machine again just to make sure and I’ll probably burn my tongue again in the process.

6. When Chipotle is half a mile from your office and there are freshly made cupcakes around the corner, you quickly become to realize that money is a privilege and learning how to manage it is the only way to control the urge to splurge.

7. Half my emails are completely irrelevant to my job and couldn’t go faster to the trash can.

8. Learning how to use Excel (or any of the Microsoft apps) is important. Knowing how to use Google Drive is crucial.

9. Public transportation is the bane of my existence. I would like to say that this is just my plight, but the fact is public transit in Baltimore is horrific. To begin with, the buses are never on time, which is to be expected. But, when you wait more than half an hour for bus to arrive, it is more than an inconvenience.

10. The real problems I have faced taking public transit are because I am woman. The first time I was at a bus stop was one of the scariest experience of my life. After my first ride, I realized there are certain things I have to do to change myself in order to feel safe. I started wearing gym clothes (and I’m not talking about yoga pants) to take the bus, so that I could reduce the unwanted attention. I would call someone on the phone when I was waiting for the bus, so it looked like I was busy.

Through these techniques, I have been able to control what happens around me, but I can’t say the same for the other interns. They got hassled by random men on the buses and the light rail. They felt the ogling eyes and they felt scared. Throughout my entire existence, I have known about the degradation and oppression of women in America, but I hadn’t really felt it til this past summer on public transit.

11. Even though, for the most part of my internship, I did very basic tasks, I learned so much about how the modern office works. But, I have also learned about education inequity. The issue of education inequity is closely tied with race and socioeconomic status. There are many areas, Baltimore being one of them, where students, often students of color, just don’t have the necessary tools to access an excellent education.

Being a Teach for America intern has been an opportunity of a lifetime. Despite challenges I have faced working there, I feel like it has been a cornerstone of my understanding of the world. Working closely with passionate people, trying to make a difference in the world, is humbling. I am glad to be going off to college with this knowledge and experience.

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