How IEA Helped Me Grow: A Reflection by Kaitlyn Chen

October 29, 2019

By Kaitlyn Chen, IEA Summer Programs Intern 

We asked IEA’s Summer Programs Intern Kaitlyn Chen to write a reflection on her journey with IEA. Check out her post below on how IEA influenced important decisions about her future career opportunities!

My name is Kaitlyn, and I’m currently a sophomore pursuing a major in Psychology with a minor in Film at California State University, Long Beach. In 2017, I participated in the EXPLORE program, externing at Apsara Media for Intercultural Education. Before coming into IEA, I had a set goal of wanting to become a film editor. For 6 years, I’ve been self-teaching myself how to edit. I’ve volunteered at multiple film festivals and nonprofit organizations in hopes of getting my foot in the door of the industry. However, the majority of the time, I was learning and editing on my own. When I started my junior year of high school, I decided that I wanted a mentor, someone who would guide me through the steps towards becoming a filmmaker, or more specifically, a film editor. I first learned of IEA and their EXPLORE program through my college and career counselor (Ms. Sisson) as I was nearing the end of my junior year. There, I met Niña, who would become my program coordinator and later my supervisor this summer. I also met my EXPLORE mentor, Dr. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, who would later become an influential person in my editing career.

Kaitlyn with IEA Staff.

How IEA Helped me to Grow

IEA definitely challenged me socially by helping me step out of my comfort zone and opening myself up to new people, ideas, and experiences. The excursions that I visited during my year (2017) and this year (2019) in EXPLORE helped me to grow closer with the other externs and become familiar with the networking process. All it takes is a brief chat with someone, and there you go! You just formed a connection, and the next step is getting in contact with them. Through IEA, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be afraid of people, but of the missed opportunities in life. As the saying goes, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” IEA helped me see what it meant to be a gifted individual. It didn’t mean being born a prodigy or being the top 1% of the class (although those could be the cases). There are other individuals whose gifts might not be as obvious, yet they are the ones working their hardest to reach for their dreams.

IEA also challenged me academically by helping me apply my academic knowledge to the real world. Going into the EXPLORE program, I didn’t think I would need any prior knowledge, aside from video editing. However, I was wrong. Before I started on my editing project, Professor Amy gave me some books to read and some documentary films to watch. I understood that in order to carry out a project, I needed to know the background information behind it, or more specifically, the historical significance. That’s when I had to reach into my memory to recall some of the previous information I had learned at school. I never imagined history to be so alive and relevant in today’s world until I began applying my historical knowledge into everything I did during my externship. Moreover, IEA taught me the technical side of the counseling field during these eight weeks I served as an intern. I learned how to format documents, file papers and keep records of the budget. I found these simple tasks to be very useful in my life, and I use them in all the things I do, whether that is formatting my assignments or recording my money spending.

Niña Abanol, IEA Programs Manager with Kaitlyn Chen, IEA Summer Programs Intern.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The moment I stepped foot in Professor Amy’s house, I just knew my filmmaking experience would take a whole different turn. You wouldn’t believe how many cultural artifacts I saw in her house, especially her living room alone. It’s like walking into a museum of its own with paintings, musical instruments, books, and so much more. How cool would it be if all filmmakers had studios like this! My filmmaking experience was more fast-paced and contemporary. However, Professor Amy showed me another route I could take that was more slow-paced yet culturally informative. For three weeks, I worked with her in learning about various South / Southeast Asian cultures and getting a chance to edit one of her documentary films. I’ve learned so much about the documentary filmmaking process –– not only the time it took to make a film, but also the time it took to learn all the information about the people and culture being documented. Professor Amy’s patience, guidance, and wisdom made my first hands-on experience in the EXPLORE program such a memorable one. I felt my work as an editor was even more valuable, knowing that it contributed to a global effort of connecting individuals to each other through cultural awareness. I never felt more valued as an editor when Professor Amy reached out to me after the program, asking me if I can help her edit again. It was that small favor that really ignited my passion for film. If someone believed in my ability, I should believe in it as well. I don’t think my connection with Professor Amy would’ve been possible without IEA’s help because they were the ones who initiated the EXPLORE program. It is because of programs like these that allow students (like myself) to continually expand our networks and connect with individuals who are like-minded and passionately driven.

A Step Towards School Counseling

I always knew I had a soft spot for kids. I love being around them. They’re such a joy to work with because they exude so much energy and optimism. I had the chance to experience these ___ more fully this summer at IEA, engaging with students from all different backgrounds and grade levels. When I was at Academy and watching over the kids on their breaks, some of them would come up to me and excitedly ask me to play with them, whether that was tag or a board game. I felt like a kid at times, remembering when I used to run around with my friends or become super competitive in Monopoly. There were, however, times when I had to step in and calmly advise the kids not to run out onto the streets or to take turns in the game. On the other hand, when I was interacting with the high school students in the EXPLORE program, I felt, in a sense, more connected to them because I was in their shoes not too long ago. Whenever they voiced their victories, I celebrated with them. Whenever they voiced their defeats, I gave them some advice that others had given me when I was facing similar challenges. These moments of connecting and advice-giving allowed me to develop a sense of purpose and fulfillment that will transcend into my possible counseling career.

Being surrounded by kids/teenagers and interacting with them brought out my inner passion for helping others physically and psychologically. Because of my soft-spoken, compassionate, and observant nature, I believe school counseling might be a great field for me –– one that I can be myself and become the person I want to be. I realized that my purpose in life was to help those in need because the world so desperately needs that at the moment. I feel like my past experiences in counseling elementary and high school students at various nonprofit organizations, especially at IEA, have ultimately led me to where I’m at. It didn’t matter how many people I was helping because I’m satisfied knowing that helping one person can change his or her world. It’s strange how I entered IEA wanting to pursue one field (film) and coming out wanting to pursue another field (psychology). It just goes to show that life and the choices you make in life are constantly changing. Therefore, you’re always learning how to adapt to these changes.

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