“Going to school here has given me a much more defined social conscious.”
Not too many students say this about their internships: “I really like looking at the baby pictures.” This comment from Silka Schreiber ’13 (Zimmerman, Minn.) makes sense, however, when you discover that her internship is in the international adoption program at Children’s Home Society and Family Services of Minnesota (CHSFS).
After solidifying her Mandarin Chinese skills last spring during an intensive language semester spent in Hangzhou, China, Schreiber is using that language facility in the China adoption program at CHSFS. Each family that adopts from China must compile a lengthy dossier; Schreiber makes sure they have gathered all the forms they need for the adoption to go through. Her language skills, she says, have helped her rewrite and otherwise deal with Chinese forms used in the program.
Because of changes in China’s policies, adoptions from that country have slowed significantly from a decade ago; most of its children now available for adoption are older or have medical needs.
An English and Chinese double major, Schreiber knew she wanted an internship having to do with China. One that involved working with kids especially appealed to her after she spent last summer interning at a Shanghai day camp for migrant children. Dealing with a group of 30 ten-year-olds really put her Chinese to the test, says Schreiber. “They talked fast and their voices were high pitched,” she says. “I learned a lot of Chinese fast.”
Schreiber spends about eight hours a week at CHSFS, earning two credits toward her political science minor in the process. “I’ve been most surprised by the kinds of people who choose to adopt,” she says. “Many of them already have large families but really want to take on a child with special needs despite that. It’s impressive that they’re willing to do that.”
Although she began the CHSFS internship wanting to use her language skills, Schreiber has found other benefits to the experience. “The most important thing an internship can teach you is how to act in a business environment,” she notes. “Here at Mac every opinion is heard and counts. We don’t really have the idea of a hierarchy or understand that in a job you need to answer to a boss.” Learning about software and databases has been another unforeseen advantage of her internship, she adds.
After graduation Schreiber plans to return to China, where she hopes to find work in a nonprofit. This is a career she never anticipated when she transferred to Macalester as a sophomore. “In high school I never thought about working for an NGO,” she says. “Going to school here has given me a much more defined social conscious.”