Where Passion Meets Purpose and Profession

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

When I declared social work to be my major in my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to work with immigrants and refugees because I thought I would relate to their experiences as an immigrant Black woman. Being the first international student from Burundi (which is located in East Africa) at Luther, I have had to adjust and adapt to a new culture. It has taught me resilience and brought strength to my character and personality.

In the past four years, my coursework has centered around women of color, immigrants, and refugees. With all of my classes, I intentionally choose assignments and research paper topics that focus on the lives of the global majority and the systemic issues we face. For the social work senior internship, I knew I wanted to work with communities of color, particularly immigrants and refugees in the Midwest.

In March of last year, before the total shut down due to the global pandemic, I found a non-profit in Rochester, Minnesota—Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA)—that works with refugees and immigrants. I knew deep in my heart that the agency would be a perfect fit for the senior field placement. However, due to COVID-19 and most people working remotely, it seemed impossible to secure the internship since there were a lot of unknowns and challenges when navigating the “new normal.” In addition to that, I was the first social work student to do their field placement in Rochester which created an additional level of challenge. Thankfully in the end, I was able to land my dream internship.

Fast forward to a year later, I am now the Victim Services Intern at IMAA. A month into the internship, I still get butterflies on my way to work because I know I am doing what I was meant to do. Some of my work involves conducting client intakes for legal clinics where our clients meet one-on-one, virtually with an attorney from Legal Assistance of Olmsted County and have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss legal options. In addition, IMAA helps refugees and immigrants who have been victimized in some way, such as domestic violence and human trafficking.

Although IMAA staff are working remotely and practicing social distancing, I am learning a lot. I especially enjoy how our virtual staff meetings feel like UN conferences with people with different cultures and accents from all over the world.

Living in Rochester has been a blessing. I remember the first time I went grocery shopping and I felt like I belonged. Everywhere I looked, I saw people who looked like me and for a second, I wanted to hug everyone in the store. Outside of work, I get to live with other Luther students who are part of the Rochester Semester program, and together we foster a community away from the Luther campus. It’s my second home away from home.

I am thankful for Luther College Social Work Department and Center for Global Learning who made it possible for my internship to happen. I appreciate that my passion creates a purpose for me, and that will turn into a fulfilling profession.


Peilla Ishimwe '21
Peilla receives her first COVID vaccination at IMAA.

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  • March 30 2021 at 4:56 pm
    Christophe Nivugana

    We are very proud of you! Be safe and blessed!

  • March 31 2021 at 3:01 am
    Ruben Sahabo

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Peilla. I am happy that you found a right place in right time where you can exercise what you love to do and have been dreaming to do. Keep up!

  • April 2 2021 at 4:39 am
    Christian Guillain Ndamama

    Thanks Miss Pailla for sharing we are proud of you. God bless the work of your hands.

  • April 8 2021 at 8:10 am
    Bethany Larson

    AH! I am so proud of you! I can't wait to hear more details about your experience in Rochester! You are so special and to hear you say how much you love what you do is inspiring. <3

  • April 10 2021 at 5:53 pm
    Lys Roberta Sangwe

    I am very happy and grateful for you Pei... keep serving and rocking... more valuable experiences are ahead!

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