Like many college students, I felt pressured to make my summer worthwhile by gaining experience that would boost my resume. Luckily, I landed a gig with Vickery Trading Company as a digital marketing intern. Vickery Trading, a nonprofit based in Dallas, is a social business that sells girls’ clothing. They employ refugee women, teaching them to sew while earning fair wages and focusing on empowering them by providing personal development trainings, resources and skills.

I will never forget walking into the office for the first time. I was welcomed with big smiles and warm hugs. My nerves vanished and I felt this wave of love rush over me. I immediately knew this summer was going to be something special. Working at Vickery Trading taught me more than I anticipated. Shortly, my internship became less about sharpening my skillset and more about gaining life experience.

The friendships I developed over the summer were so valuable. Putting language barriers and cultural differences aside, relationships began to grow thanks to yummy food and simple conversations.

Photo Credit: Emily Edwards

Lunchtime was a highlight of each day. The associates would bring a full spread of homemade pita bread, rice, a main course, fruit, a spicy green sauce (a personal favorite) and sometimes dessert. Most of the food I had never tried before and honestly, never heard of. As a foodie, I looked forward to taking my taste buds on a new adventure every day. Sitting at the table and sharing food prepared by the hands that surrounded me gave me a warm feeling I can’t explain. Food was one small way I got to experience their cultures. Watching their faces light up as they explained what each dish was and how to make it was also special.  

Lunch conversations filled the room with laughter. I am a firm believer that laughter creates the best friendships. Our chats revolved around sharing cultural traditions such as weddings, schooling and celebrations. I especially loved getting to hear personal stories because they bring you closer to that person by getting a glimpse of their own cherished moments. In an office with only women, we had our fair share of girl talk; dancing, movies, shopping and yes, boys, too. Even though I was sitting with women from different parts of the world, eating unfamiliar food and hearing different languages, I didn’t notice any of that.  It doesn’t matter where they are from, what religion they practice, the language they speak or what they look like. Wherever you are and whoever you are, you can relate to people over funny family stories, the happy tunes of Disney songs, moments of chaos and times of laughter.

The two-way cultural exchange went beyond conversations and lunch time. I have to say one of my favorite days was July 11. If you didn’t connect the dots, July 11…7-Eleven, the gas station that gives out free Slurpees on the 11th of July. You bet we packed everyone into our cars for a fieldtrip to the nearest 7-Eleven. It was fun getting to share this American experience with people who are new to the American culture. Introducing my associates to Slurpees for the first time was a hit, especially since they were free. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love free stuff?

Photo Credit: Stephanie Giddens

When I tell people about my internship, I find myself leaving out the details on the actual work I did because I am so eager to tell about the relationships and experiences. I admire each and every woman I met this summer. Stephanie (the founder and President), the associates and my fellow interns. Confidence is revealed through their every action, bravery is shown by willingly accepting new challenges and love pours out through the way they care for one another. I had never before been surrounded by a group of such strong women, and I loved every second I was able to share with them.

Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Internships are truly remarkable experiences. They are full of exciting opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone, only to possibly lead you closer to your future career. Applying the skills and knowledge you have developed at school feels great, but let me tell you that the things you can’t put on a resume are just as valuable, if not more. The memories from my summer will stay with me forever, and I hope they impact my future. I did indeed gain valuable experience geared toward my career, but the intangible experiences left a soft spot in my heart and are helping me narrow my focus to what it is that I exactly want to do in this world.