Catholic Charities Welcomes Palestinian Intern

by Tamara Alqassis

Hello! Or as we say in Arabic, Marhaba! My name is Tamara Alqassis, and I am currently a senior at Bethlehem University studying English Language and Literature as a major and Translation as a minor.  I am spending six weeks in Shreveport as part of an internship program between Catholic Charities USA and Bethlehem University. I live in Beit Jala, Palestine which is about 1.24 miles away from the Church of the Nativity. I come from a big family, five sisters and one brother, and I have 16 nephews and nieces. My hobbies are running, dancing Dabkeh which is Palestinian Folk Dance, and drama. I am interested in traveling and learning more about communication skills.

Since my sophomore year I have been a member in Bethlehem University Students Ambassadors Program where we welcome foreigners and help them understand the truth about Palestine and promote the university. Being part of this program, I have gained confidence in my language skills through my experience in my daily talks and interactions. It also gives me an opportunity to learn about other cultures and their perspectives about Palestine and its people. I am honored to be an ambassador for my country and university, and to be interning at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Our internships were chosen for us, and I believe God has sent me to Louisiana for a definite purpose. My internship at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) includes developing an e-newsletter and helping in the development office.

The first day I arrived in Louisiana, I had my first Chinese food and my first fortune cookie (it said, “A pleasant surprise is in store for you soon”). I have been exposed to a really different culture with unique food. I also tried some seafood for the first time including frog legs. They look disgusting, but they are delicious! I believe I will become addicted to seafood. As I am exposed to different food and culture, my host family is exposed to some Palestinian food too. They now enjoy Zeit (olive oil) and Za’tar (roasted thyme) with bread, a traditional breakfast in Palestine.

The first week and a half, I was involved with CCNLA to help victims of the Red River flood. Just standing next to them, listening to their stories and helping them with the resources available, makes their hurts a little easier to bear for people who have lost much. This experience has affected me the most, and I believe it has been the most memorable experience I have had here.

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