Week 1: Cultural Orientation

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My desk at CRIS

Hello! My name is Katy Nash and I am working at the Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) for my Fellowship.  I’m so grateful for the wonderful opportunity to help welcome people to this amazing country!

My job at CRIS is to create a resource library for the website (crisohio.org) and develop a new cultural competency training for people in the central Ohio area to learn more about the refugees and immigrant populations we serve.

This week has been a whirlwind, but I’ve loved every minute of it.  On Monday, I was able to meet the other Summer Fellows at our first Learning Session at the Columbus Foundation, and WOW! I am in good company.  Everyone seemed incredibly hardworking and passionate about their causes, which is so inspiring.

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Me and the other Columbus Foundation Summer Fellows

I’m jumping headfirst into my task with researching the various refugee communities we have as our neighbors and it’s been incredible.  I am learning about various conflicts around the world that I had never heard about from my little bubble in Columbus, Ohio.  Many of our refugee clients have experienced terrible things in the countries they come from and I’m so happy we can offer them a safe place to live in the United States of America.  We are a country founded by immigrants, so what better place for these families to make a fresh start?

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A classroom at CRIS where cultural orientations are held

So far this week I have sat in on one cultural orientation for Bhutanese-Nepali refugees that recently arrived in the United States.  I also watched a presentation for two different groups of residents wanting to learn more about the refugee communities. The two types of presentations were very different because Americans learning about refugees need to learn basics of immigration, such as the difference between a refugee and an immigrant (there is an important difference!!) and newcomers to the United States need to learn basics of American culture, such as calling “911” for emergencies, going to check-ups at the doctor, and how to gain employment in this unfamiliar country.

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Terminal at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)

Today, I had the opportunity to help welcome a new refugee family to Columbus (and the United States) at the airport. CRIS is a resettlement agency that helps refugees acclimate to Columbus once they arrive and part of a CRIS caseworker’s responsibility is to greet the new families.  The family came from Eritrea and spoke almost no English, so I was glad that we could be there to help them find their bags, etc.  We also had a translator with us, which was very helpful.  CRIS also helps the new families find an apartment to live in, but the family’s apartment was not ready yet so we took them to a hotel to stay for the night.  The family was very kind and warm to me and the other CRIS employees even though we were unable to speak to them.

I’ve learned so much in a few days, I can only imagine what I will know at the end of the summer.  One week down, nine to go!




About Katy Nash

I'm a rising Junior at Miami University majoring in International Studies and Economics. This summer, I am a Fellow for the Columbus Foundation at the Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbus, Ohio. On this blog, I'll be documenting my experience!
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