The word “life-changing” is thrown around a whole lot, but I really can’t use any other word to describe my internship this quarter. This may be because I am dealing with actual human lives — Never before this internship did I have the occasion to describe something as “a matter of life and death,” and now I do with my work at the Chicago Recovery Alliance, where I educate injection drug users about harm reduction principles and providing them the resources to practice their usage more safely. It exactly aligns with the work I want to do after graduation. The opportunity to explore my desired career path truly has changed my life.
The Chicago Recovery Alliance appeared on my radar the past spring quarter, when my student group, the NU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, hosted the CRA director to speak on the topic of harm reduction. With his characteristic charisma and gusto, the director spoke at length about the work his organization performed in helping heroin users within the context of the admittedly slow-to-adapt mainstream medical community and political sector. I was beyond intrigued, and I applied to CFS largely on a whim, entertaining a fanciful idea of helping in this line of work but never taking it too seriously. However, once accepted to the program, I took advantage of the freedom encouraged by CFS to design my own internship, with a lot of encouraging help by the CFS staff.
Fast forward 3 months, and I am learning more than I ever have every single day I visit my internship site. I’ve interacted frequently with people of immensely different backgrounds from my own, listening to them speak about how the CRA has empowered them to control their drug use more responsibly and safely through our distribution of clean syringes, naloxone, free vaccinations, and other health-related services. In the classroom, I’m learning alongside some incredibly gifted and passionate peers, discussing readings from some of the most influential and controversial writers to better understand our roles as workers and citizens in this country at this current time of opportunity and uncertainty. My education in the workplace and the classroom frequently intersect given the political nature of my work, but moreover I believe all that I am learning is helping me to grow as an ever more empathetic and worldly person. I can’t imagine many other situations in which I would get to learn what I am learning now, so even after every hour and a half commute that I make with every trip to my internship sites I am still nothing but wholly grateful for the experiences I have received through CFS.