When Shelby Longland, ’13, arrived on Richmond’s campus, one of her first stops was the career fair to find a work-study position. She had no idea that this job would ultimately transform her college career. 

Longland, an international studies and French double major, accepted a position as a student coordinator at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), where she managed their listserv and coordinated events. Seeing the impact of community engagement firsthand led her to participate in the CCE's Richmond Families Initiative as a volunteer at Peter Paul Development Center, an afterschool program in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood.

When she began her sophomore year, she opted to participate in the ESL Tutoring Project — now known as Linking Through Language and Technology. Program participants assist refugees and immigrants who work on Richmond’s campus with improving their English language skills. Many of the program’s participants are refugees who come to the U.S. from war-torn countries and Longland observed the challenges of adjusting to a new country. “I had no idea what they’ve gone through,” she says. “It was nice for me to feel like I could give back.” 

After her tutoring experience, Longland sought out ways to continue to interact with and assist immigrant populations. With the support of a Burhans Civic Fellowship, she took on a full-time summer internship at the International Institute of New England in Manchester, N.H. The organization takes in refugees from all over the world and places them in homes around New England. The agency provides job services, school and ESL support, and assists refugees in applying for a Social Security number and other services.

Longland grew up a half-hour from Manchester and was surprised to discover that more than 300 refugees were settling in the town each year. She helped incoming refugees find apartments and organized rides for them from the airport. Most of the people she worked with came from Bhutan but had been living in refugee camps in Nepal; some had been waiting to come to the United States for as long as 20 years. 

While her internship exposed her to the realities of the refugee resettlement process, Longland’s biggest realization from her summer experience was that she wanted a career assisting others. “I can’t sit in front of a computer and books all day,” she says. “I need to work with people one-on-one.”

Longland is grateful to the CCE for helping her create a rich college experience for herself. “If I hadn’t gone to the career fair and found the CCE booth in my first month of school, I don’t know where I’d be. It really has changed my college career, and my direction for the future.”