Life as a Part-time Intern

Yes, I am a summer intern. No, I am not the coffee girl.

Thanks to a bit of luck, a lot of hard work, and, most importantly, support from countless loved ones, I have received the opportunity to intern at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (ILHMEC) for the summer. Three days a week, I don real-people clothes and practice being an adult who goes to an actual office and does actual work for an actual museum. And thus far, I have loved every minute of it.

Growing up, most of us have this image in our heads that office-work consists of gray cubicles and rampant boredom. What I have realized is that, while the cubicles are rather gray, boredom is in short supply. Because my responsibilities as an intern change with the museum’s schedule, I encounter new projects and challenges often. And it doesn’t hurt that my co-workers and supervisors are brilliant, passionate, hilarious people.

On a typical day at the museum, I am either helping with field trips and speakers or doing research (anything from local university social justice initiatives to survivor biographies falls into my domain). Lest that sound dull to any of you, rest assured that it most definitely is not. The day is fast approaching when the Shoah’s eyewitnesses will no longer be here to keep the history alive; everything we do to become witnesses ourselves matters, and it will translate to facets of our lives we could never have anticipated.

In my bosses’ eyes, getting to know survivors is the most important part of working here, and they have encouraged me to hear every speaker I can. In my first two weeks, I met and listened to over twenty survivors; still better, I got the opportunity to watch students interact with many of them. I saw kids relate to the immigrant experience or ask survivors what they can do to prevent genocide in the future. Testaments to the power of education, they continue to impress me with their candor and their awareness. And once the innocent humor sneaks in, I cannot help but smile. When Steen Metz, the first survivor I heard this summer, opened the floor to a full house of middle schoolers, one of the first questions was, “How good were you at soccer?” To which he replied, “Ever heard of Messi?”

Reflecting upon the past several weeks, I can honestly say most of my days at the museum are special. A few weeks ago, I shared a brick of fried onions with Holocaust survivor Sam Harris and our mutual friend Danny Spungen (few things can top enjoying a heart attack on a plate with funny, happy people). Another morning, a survivor surprised me with a fantastically smothering bear-hug. And there was one afternoon where I stayed after closing to chat with a survivor, who only recently began sharing her story, and her daughter, who has written three books on their experiences. These are the moments that will remain sharp in my memory; these people are role models and inspirations I will not forget.

All this, and I’ve still got a month to go.


Famous fried onions from Hackney’s on Harms