Summer of Purpose: A Cultural Lesson to Last a Lifetime

By Noha Bechara
Esperanza, Inc.

BecharaThroughout my senior year at John Carroll University, as classmates were narrowing job opportunities and planning their futures, I found myself stuck in the mindset that I still wanted to have my last summer before the “big-girl world” hit me full force. I wanted more experience before delving into the deep end of early morning rush hour commutes, spilled coffee and paychecks that never come fast enough. From which angle to enter the workforce is a big decision, one that I did not take lightly.

With this realization, my next predicament was finding where to start. Then, all at once, it hit me: the answer to my questions. (By “it,” I mean an email from my adviser informing me of the Cleveland Foundation Internship Program.) Once I applied for the program and received my placement, I was ready to begin.

Being the PR and marketing intern at Esperanza has been quite the experience. Just passing the halfway point in the internship, I have already written a plethora of press releases, articles and fact sheets that put my late nights full of homework to shame; helped with the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, the Fiesta of Hope; and learned that no matter how many years I spent learning Spanish in school, I will never be able to keep up with native speakers.

My original intention was just to enhance my portfolio, practice my skills and gain work experience through this internship. I never anticipated learning so much about culture. Despite the almost literal culture shock of entering a Spanish-speaking office in the middle of Cleveland, I find it comforting to be in such a diverse work environment. Coming from a Lebanese household where the first word I learned to say was “hummus,” I can’t help but find that the blend of Spanish and English spoken here – “Spanglish” for those who appreciate a good portmanteau – reminds me of home. Working here, and finding the similarities among the Hispanic, American and Arabic cultures, has made me more aware of my own culture and eager to learn as much as I can about others.

I look forward to these next few weeks at Esperanza, where I expect to absorb as many culturally valuable lessons as work assignments. Learning to interact with people of all backgrounds is a crucial skill for the workforce. In the meantime, I can brush up on my Spanish, learn as much as I can, and try to find a good recipe that combines hummus with a burrito … maybe.

Noha Bechara graduated in May from John Carroll University, where she majored in integrated marketing communications and sociology.