TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?
Mary Vanden Plas
I miss the people I met there. There so many wonderful women and kids that I got to know through the classes I taught not to mention our translators that we worked with so closely and the other interns. Those connections were so wonderful.
From Chicago, IL Mary taught Critical Thinking, English in The Women's Group, Fitness in The Women's Group and Professional Competency at An-Najah University as an intern at TYO Nablus in the fall of 2012.
What was your favorite moment/story from your time with TYO?
I remember the one day during homework help that one student -Rami - absolutely refused to do any homework. Instead of just telling me he didn't have any. He told me that he didn't want to while looking embarrassed. Knowing that Rami struggles with reading and was often uncomfortable reading in front of others, I decided that day to give him something else to do, thinking that I'd keep him out of the other students hair while they worked. I told him he would be MY Arabic teacher for the day so we went to the white board where he drew pictures and told me the words. I learned how to say apple, tree, house, and my favorite: butterfly.
What do you miss most about TYO or Nablus?
I miss the people I met there. There so many wonderful women and kids that I got to know through the classes I taught not to mention our translators that we worked with so closely and the other interns. Those connections were so wonderful. I still keep in touch, but I miss seeing my translator Ruba every day and hanging out in the intern office with the other interns while we planned our lessons.
What have you been up to after leaving Nablus and what are your plans for the future?
Currently I work as an administrator for an IT department in Chicago. While at this job, I'm taking the time to really decide on what I want as a career. I'm planning to take the State Department's Foreign Service Exam and hopefully eventually pass it. I'm also looking into finding work with another non-profit, preferably related to youth.
How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?
Personally, I'm affected in all sorts of little ways. I have new friendships and new experiences. Seeing the situation faced by the people of Palestine has given me new perspective not only on the conflict there, but on all conflicts. Being in Nablus and at TYO also reaffirmed my belief that no matter where you go, people are people, mostly good, and always flawed, but no matter their creed or political stance, they should be seen first as fellow human beings.
Professionally, TYO helped me understand what my true goals and passions are. In school I studied international politics, but outside of school, I was drawn to jobs and volunteer opportunities working with youth. TYO gave me my first real opportunity to combine those two passions in a professional setting.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a TYO internship?
Do it! If you feel passionate about the kind of work TYO does, then you'll fit right in and be able to face the challenges that three months interning in Nablus will throw at you. That passion is the important thing.