Building peace through friendship

Yaara Taal.jpg“I got the chance to meet the “other side”, Palestinians, on a personal level, face-to-face, without the media,” said Yaara Tal, an international student from Kibbutz Dorot, Israel, the southern part of the country by the Gaza strip. In 2008 she attended the Creativity for Peace (CFP) program in Santa Fe, NM, where she met some people from Gaza living on the other side of the Gaza strip.

She took part in this leadership program to share her experience from the Israel- Palestinian conflict and hear the perspective of Palestinians living across the border. “We lived together, cooked and cleaned together, laughed and cried together,” said Tal, “by the end of the camp, we saw each other as human beings and not enemies.”

After the program in 2010, Tal was conscripted into the Israeli military, as a part of its mandatory citizenship requirement. In the military, she served as an observer in the Gaza border for two years but she had minimal exposure to the regular civilians in Gaza. “I felt like I was confronting the terrorist, not the people I met through the CFP program,” said Tal.

After the military, she joined the CFP program again where she received a full scholarship to attend the Lane Community College for two years with a Palestinian student named Deema Yusef.  In fall 2013 Tal and Yusef arrived together for the first time in Eugene, Ore, and since then they have been classmates, roommates, and friends.


In 2015, the two girls transferred to the University of Oregon to major in International Studies and they are both a part of the ICSP scholarship. “Now we know each other so well that we call tell each other’s story by heart,” said Tal, “I think getting to this deep level of friendship, respect, and understanding with someone from Palestine is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. ”


Tal will graduate in Dec. 2017 with a major in international studies and a minor in political science and the Middle East and North Africa studies. “When I was a kid I dreamt of becoming the Israeli ambassador in South Korea,” said Tal whose mother is a South Korean citizen living in Israel. “Although I am not sure if I want to be an ambassador anymore, international relations was always a field I wanted to study,” said Tal.


After her graduation, she hopes to work for a nonprofit that focuses on building peace and women empowerment in the Middle East. During which she wishes to travel the world and eventually enter grad school for further education in global affairs.




Pakistani ICSPer working to resettle asylees

Sara Fatimah, international student from Peshawar, Pakistan has a passion for spreading environmental awareness and advocating for social justice. In 2014, the ICSP scholarship gave her the opportunity to study International Studies at the University of Oregon as an undergraduate student.

During the summer of 2017, she worked as an asylee intern at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Baltimore, Maryland.  She assisted in resettlement work with asylees, refugees, victims of human trafficking and parolees from Cuba and Haiti.


Fatimah has always longed to work for the IRC. She wanted to do field work on issues related to developing countries but due to travel restrictions she didn’t want to risk leaving the U.S.A. Her experience in the ICSP made her preeminent during the application process for this internship. Through the ICSP, Fatimah gained skills in working with a multicultural group and performing cross cultural communication which were the major requirements for that job.

IRC, a nonprofit organization is highly dependent on the work of its volunteers and interns. “I knew that my role even as an intern made an enormous difference in IRC’s work as a refugee resettlement agency in Maryland,” said Fatimah.

She worked at the asylee department helping resettle asylees, victims of human trafficking, parolees from Haiti and Cuba and refugees that were previously settled in other states that later moved to Baltimore. She assisted her supervisors Alia-El-Assar, a Palestinian American and Beyenech Taye, an Ethiopian-American.

The department was small but it was very multicultural. Each of the staff had their own diverse and unique life experience. There were more than six languages spoken in her department so conversing with her multi-ethnic clients made it very easy.  Fatimah was also one of the employees who brought her experience in a range of languages. She is proficient in speaking and understanding Urdu, Hindi and Pashto which aided the organizations in its different departments.

“My favorite moment this summer was seeing my co-worker ask a French-speaking client what his favorite ice-cream flavor was at a summer social we had arranged for the youth we worked with,” said Fatimah, “what made it especially interesting was that in our six spoken languages, none of us spoke French. However, we still understood the basics to communicate.”


Her last two weeks of the internship were the most distressing. The executive order placed by President Donald J. Trump terminated the CAM (Central American Minors) refugee program. It stopped 2,500 Central American minors from reuniting with their families in the U.S. “The IRC assisted many families in Maryland through the CAM refugee program,” said Fatimah, “however, many families who had been patiently waiting across borders to be reunited were now left in a state of helplessness.”

Through her experience at IRC Fatimah understood and empathized with the distress some families witness due to the severe and sudden governmental decisions. Her internship has made her more focused and motivated to help families and to contribute to this world to make it a better place.



Haitian student changing UO.

“My origin from a developing country and my passion to work toward the improvement of the lives of the less fortunate drove me to major in international studies at the University of Oregon,” said Jean Francois Guilmeus, current ICSP student from Pétionville, Haiti.

Jean_edited.jpgDuring his time at the university he was involved with six different organizations on campus. He worked for the UO African Student Association and the UO Black Student Union. In 2017, he was the founding member and contributor of the International Studies Student Coalition and UO Black Male Alliance. From 2015-17 he taught French at the Mills International Center Language Circle and performed as the leader for the French Language Circle.
“The amount of knowledge that I gained through my participation in the different associations is priceless,” said Guilmeus, “helping them had helped me meet and learn from different kinds of people.”



He is proud to be a person of color from a different country but during the election period in the U.S.A he had some frightening experiences. Those experiences made him think deeply about his personal identity. He received support from UO faculty, staff and the peers he met through ICSP. “Being a part of ICSP was the best thing on campus. I was and am part of a group of like-minded, supportive and amazing individuals,” said Guilmeus.

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Outside of school he enjoys participating in outdoor activities and writing poems. Ever since he learned how to write he started composing poems. Until now he has written more than 200 poems but lost some of them while he was moving from countries. “My first poem was for my mom who is my hero.” said Guilmeus who grew up in a single parent home. “I have never wasted a drop of tear either of joy or pain without converting it into ink to compose some verses.” Recently he wrote a poem about his graduation which he wanted to share with the world.

I Am Graduating

I have hankered for this day as a mother longs for a newborn

But I have resented it as labor pains, it will make me mourn

I wanted to see it arrive very fast, so quick.

Though desirable, it tastes bittersweet.

This will be a day of great joy and achievements

Followed by separation and bereavement

I am happy! with school I will be done

I am sad! From Eugene I will be gone.

JFG October 24, 2017

Guilmeus is expected to graduate at the end of fall 2017. He is doleful to leave Eugene and the friends he made through this community. However, he expects to return one day after he completes his further education either in Europe or Canada.

Two internships and three countries, all in one summer!

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-25 at 12.19.30 PM.jpegSrushti Kamat, journalism major and current ICSP student from Singapore/ India recently interned with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate for Oregon.

Its main office is in Portland and during the summer she was there for two months, and she spend another month traveling to Vietnam and Singapore. Currently, she is still interning for it to complete the post-production project for its NorthWest Stories which is collaborating with the Vietnam War Project.

Kamat also held a second internship at Blue Chalk Media, a non-fiction video production company with offices in New York and Portland. Over the summer she alternated between the two internships depending on projects and availability.

With OPB she performed as its documentary production management intern and student liaison on the NorthWest Stories. Now she is remotely working from Eugene and heading up to Portland whenever possible.

Seven students were selected to be a part of the NorthWest Stories digital series. They stayed in Ho Chi Minh City from Sept. 1 until the 14. It was a collaboration between OPB and the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. The team filmed a series of short documentaries with the aim to find connecting points between Oregon and Vietnam under the umbrella of the Vietnam War Project by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

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“I was responsible for managing the team of seven who were based in different parts of Oregon,” said Kamat. She worked with them to find stories that showed a connection between Oregon and the Vietnam War. They arranged the logistics for the two week trip to Ho Chi Minh City, which included finding translators, creating a production schedule, conducting pre-interviews and interviews, scouting for locations etc.

Learn more about the NorthWest Series on Facebook and Instagram
Kamat also produced an interview with Ken Burns, a celebrated documentary filmmaker. Click here to check out that interview 

With Blue Chalk, she performed as its production assistant for shoots and helped with projects as a researcher, organizer, and general personal assistant to complete small tasks.

12190133_10153311679262875_4164016813316460659_n.jpgThe highlight of her internship at OPB was getting to spearhead an independent project. “A lot of interns don’t get as much creative control so being given the freedom to take the vision and pursue it with ambition and rigor was incredible,” said Kamat, “I also received a great mentor and supervisor in Alison Perkins who guided me through the world of multimedia journalism in 2017 and how to focus on telling a good story before anything else.” Her biggest highlight was to work internationally and visit Vietnam.

Her highlight at Blue Chalk was to learn and work with the talented individuals around her and to work under time constraints  in a work flow structure. “I learned efficiency and working as a team to transform ideas into tangible products, ” said Kamat.

The most difficult task for Kamat was to manage a team that lived in different locations. “Without being together in the same space involved coming up with creative solutions to work together as much as we possibly could, ” said Kamat.

As she was new to both companies and was working in a different city for the first time, she felt overwhelmed managing two jobs. “Not a lot of people get the opportunities that I did this summer so I worked through the struggles and made sure to write my thoughts down and keep myself engaged,” said Kamat.

19554787_10154904738352875_1901253309281085569_n.jpgA few things she took away from this experience were to handle projects in different ways, time management, authenticity and honesty, and to challenge herself to think about how media handles issues. “I realized that journalists are some of the most hard working people you will ever meet.,” said Kamat, “they are passionate and willing to be critical of the industry but stand true to the power of storytelling.” Gaining the trust of the public is an important aspect of being a journalist so she felt hopeful and excited to enter a profession with such work ethic.


Her professional/ personal tips:
Her advice to students looking for internships is firstly: “be curious”. Building professional relationships at an early stage, seeking opportunities in different areas, open-mindedness, asking good questions, and being passionate were also some of her suggestions to build experiences. “I got many of the opportunities I did because I continued to reach out to the places I want to work at, sought out opportunities to help with projects in whatever area they needed,” said Kamat, “use the experiences from your past to guide you but not foreshadow your opinions of how the world works.”

Click here to learn more about Srushti Kamat

ICSP student interns at Uber

Maria Laura Rodriguez, ICSP student from Caracas, Venezuela recently completed a 3 month summer internship at Uber Technologies in the Seattle Office. She performed as their software engineer for the Rentals Team at Uber, doing full-stack development.

Full stack development involves coding in the front-end and in the back-end. The front-end is the part of the application the user directly interacts with (the user interface) and the back-end usually consists of the server, application and database.

One of the highlights of her internship was being a part of Uber itself.
“It was very exciting to go into work everyday and see what new task I was going to work on, or see a milestone that the company accomplished, or a new feature it released,” said Rodriguez , “when you are working on a product that millions of people use, you feel like you are making a direct impact on peoples lives, and it makes you feel like a part of something that is changing the world.”
Within her first week of the internship, Uber released tipping in the U.S. which gave her a sense of the impact the company has in the U.S. and around the world.

Another highlight of her internship was working 8 hours a day with the people on her team. “They were very enthusiastic about what I was doing and would be super helpful, whether it was mentoring me through work, teaching me about careers in software development or just telling me about things I can do in Seattle.” said Rodriguez. She said everybody in the team cared about each others success, and by the end of her internship she was incredibly grateful for the friendships she made during her time in the company.

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Rodriguez did face some struggles while working for the company. She had a difficult time understanding how the different parts of Uber worked together. She never worked for a big company before so some time she felt overwhelmed.”In a lot of cases I would have to contact different teams at the company and communicate with them about any particular questions or issues. It took a little while for me to understand the big picture of how Uber works and how each team relies on each other,” said Rodriguez.

Working at Uber definitely made her learn more about her major that improved her skills as a software engineer.


Rodriguez felt that all the decisions she has made to put her education and career first had finally paid off. “It made me understand how important it is to have a job that you love in an environment that makes you happy,” said Rodriguez,” having that stability can make your life feel so much better.”


Suggestions for finding internships/jobs.

Rodriguez shared some of her tips about looking for internship/job opportunities.She believes starting early and preparing oneself by building a resume, achieving good grades and making connections.”How you get your internship will vary from how other people get theirs, but just make sure you are a good candidate once you start looking, ” said Rodriguez.

Applying to internships and jobs can be a grueling process. “If you have ever gone through it you know sometimes it feels as if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or like the end of the world if you don’t get that job,” said Rodriguez, “however, getting a rejection doesn’t dictate if you will succeed in the future, nor does it dictate your worth as a person.”

She believes tackling this “journey” with optimism. Treating every failure as a learning opportunity and using it as a way to improve the next job application. “If you look at it this way, by the end of your journey you are going to come out as a much stronger candidate, aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and you are going to see how easier it becomes to getting those interviews, and eventually an offer.” said Rodriguez.

Click here to learn more about Maria Laura Rodriguez

ICSP students at the World Poetry Night

On Feb. 21, 2017 the Mills International Center and the University of Oregon Library hosted an annual World Poetry Night at the University of Oregon Knight Library. It was an opportunity for students, staff, and members of the community to come together to share and appreciate poetry and other vocally performative art from around the world.

5 ICSP scholarship recipients and current alum participated in this open mic poetry performance in their own language.

Jean Francois Guilmeus, our current ICSP student from Haiti recited one of his personal poems at the event . In French the poem is called “Je ne me tairai pas” in English it is translated as “I will not be silent. ”
Check out the full performance here World Poetry Night 2017: Jean Francois Guilmeus


Irene Njenga


Irene Njenga, curreny ICSP alumnae and international graduate student from Kenya recited a poem called “Kiswahili Kitukuzwe” by author Wallah bin Wallah. This poem is about the love and history of Swahili. Check out her full performance here: World Poetry Night 2017: Irene\



Mohammed Al Astall (1)


Mohammed Al Astall, current ICSP student from Palestine recited a poem called “I don’t like anything!” by author Mahmoud Darwish. It describes an experience of a bus driver with his different passengers.
Here is the full video of his performance: World Poetry Night 2017: Mohammed Al Asttal


Kainat Shaikh


Kainat Shaikh, full bright scholar and current ICSP alumnae performed “Mujh se pehli si muhabbat mere mehboob na maang” translated in English as “My love, do not ask from me the love we shared before.” This poem is written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and translated into English by Mustainsir Dalvi. Check out her full performance: World Poetry Night 2017: Kainat Shaikh 




Carolina Arredondo Sanchez Lira, current ICSP alumnae from Mexico recited “Poema 20” by author Pablo Neruda. In English it is translated as “Poem 20” which describes the heartache and loss of the narrators lover.
Check out the full  performance here: World Poetry Night 2017: Carolina Arredondo S.L

ICSP student from South Korea volunteering in Kenya


DaHyun Kim, University of Oregon ICSP student from South Korea, recently came back from Nairobi, Kenya after working 6 months for the United Nations. Her reason to travel to the other side of the globe was to gain an UN University Volunteer experience at the UN Environment headquarters located in United Nations office at Nairobi (UNON). UNON is one of the four major office sites with around 5,000 UN personnel. Her role at UN Environment was working with the News and Media team under the Communication Division. Three major roles she took upon are as follows:

1. Creating partnership with private media platforms such as The Conversation.

2. Building the first photo library of UN Environment.

3. Address the basic inquires or interview requests from media outlets, journalists and so on.

She feels it was an immensely eye-opening experience as she gained better understanding of the big institutions like UN, connected with many amazing colleagues and exchanged stories. All of which helped her figure out her next goal in life.


During her free time DaHyun explored the beautiful country of Kenya, connected with nice people and participated in many different activities. She said everyday when she would get on their public transportation, called Matatu or Bodaboda, she conversed and made jokes with the friendly locals. “I couldn’t feel more comfortable as they had welcomed me to enjoy the country instead of calling me out as a Muzungu (White person),” said DaHyun.


DaHyun connected with four ICSP alumni while in Kenya, observing “The world is small indeed.”

DaHyun also engaged with a couple of community based organizations such as children’s home and media empowerment organization. She was eager to be in a more learning environment. “All the experiences I gained from these organizations made me become a better person,” said DaHyun, “students in Kenya are brilliant, creative and mature. I had a few friends who introduced themselves as a 21 year old with 45 years of life experience!” Although she is back in Eugene, Ore, she feels she has left a part of her in Nairobi.



ICSP in the news: a blast from the past!

Old Oregon article December 1984 cover

ICSP was featured in ‘Old Oregon’ soon after it began in December 1984. 33 years later, not much has changed, and the need is still great. Our students from across the globe still give 80 service hours each year, and we still “help Oregonians increase their awareness of different cultures and become better world citizens” every day! Featured alumni include Jackie Omanga, Alberto Foyo and Yukiko Tomidokoro. Old Oregon article December 1984.jpg

ICSP Celebration Page

Check out our ICSP celebration web page in the run-up to October’s reunion! Here you can update your details, access our Flickr photo gallery, read alumni testimonials, and submit your own photos and stories. These stories are so valuable, as we aim to demonstrate impact and continue funding ICSP!