In the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to work under the French organization of Le Centre d’Accueil et d’Orientation. Also known as CAO, this organization’s mission is to host and provide resources to incoming asylum-seekers from across the globe. These resources range from assistance with paperwork to accommodation by temporary housing.
Throughout this experience, my activities ranged from day to day. On days in the office, I observed meetings between the social workers and the asylum-seekers finishing up their refugee status paper, and when no meetings took place I focused my time on research for the organization, from creating graphics of CAO’s demography to researching the conventions and laws CAO is to follow. Many other days I was not directly in the office, and these days I assisted in accommodation site visits, shopping for supplies, or even making organic and easy cleaning supplies for the asylum-seekers to use.
One particular day of importance during my internship was June 20th, which across the globe is the day set aside to celebrate refugees and their bravery. For International Refugees Day, CAO partnered with other asylum-seeker and refugee organizations across Strasbourg to host a celebration for all asylum-seekers and refugees around the area, completely free of charge. At this event, we provided food, drink, games for children, music, and even a hot air balloon for the refugees and families to ride in! This celebration allowed me to see how beautiful the world can be when we cooperate toward one cause or event.
My internship at CAO was both humbling and rewarding, and it assisted me in both perfecting my French but also experiencing the realities of immigration work and asylum. I gained a better understanding of international, supranational, and national laws and norms regarding the rights of refugees and the legal framework in France for seeking asylum. With this knowledge in hand, I gained a better comparative understanding by setting French and U.S. policy side-by-side to see where each differs, as well as finding common ground. Overall, this experience was academically and professionally enriching.