I can’t believe how fast time has gone by since I first started my internship! It has been one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences interning at the National Consumers League (NCL) in Washington, D.C. I have gained so many memories with the fellow interns and the NCL staff, have grown so much as a consumer and consumer advocate, and have acquired more knowledge about important consumer issues than I had every imagined.
The specific tasks assigned to me allowed me to gain experience and knowledge in areas I was unfamiliar with. Extensive research opportunities on fraud and scams have allowed me to realize how essential non-profit organizations were in protecting consumers and informing them of issues that affect them. The research work I have done on various issues associated with public policy has been incredibly useful to me as a consumer as well. After researching and writing a blog about billing aggregators, who might place unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills on behalf of third-party companies, I always carefully review my phone bills and make sure there are no suspicious and unauthorized charges. I highly believe that every student should have the opportunity to intern at an organization like the NCL because the work that I have done has helped me to not only learn about billing aggregators, but also assist consumers to make good decisions and carefully review their phone bills.
Through national conferences, meetings, roundtable discussions, and Congressional hearings, non-profits are always actively working to protect consumers. By attending these events, I have gained new interests in particular consumer issues. By attending Women and Families on Attaining Perfection: What do women pay for the perfect body? hosted by the National Research Center for Women and Families, I learned that the yogurt company I have been purchasing from for years has been investigated and charged for deceptive marketing. I realized how serious this problem is and how many consumers, like me, have become victims of deceptive marketing or unproven claims. Even though I have completed my internship at the NCL, I hope to learn more about deceptive marketing in the future at Brandeis and other work opportunities.
I am most positive that the knowledge and experience I have gained at the NCL will be very useful when continuing my education and leadership commitments at Brandeis. Compiling data and researching different issues will allow me to gather information for research papers better. I have been trained to distinguish the most important details for a short term and long term research project. Furthermore, the networking and event planning experiences will allow me to act effectively as the middleman between academic departments and the students in the fall as the undergraduate departmental representative (UDR). Serving as the UDR will definitely take a lot of organization, concentration and teamwork to complete duties and responsibilities. The team projects I have completed at the NCL will help me to work together with other UDRs and assist each other to organize and coordinate great events and provide departmental information to students.
For any students interested in advocacy work, I would highly recommend interning at the NCL. The staff members are very caring and willing to help interns meet and go beyond their learning goals. They are very accommodating to what you would like to work on and are great about recommending various DC events that might be of interest to you. Although you have one head supervisor, you also have the opportunity to help other staff members at their events and conferences. I have noticed that individuals who work in a non-profit are very passionate about the work they do. They want to make a difference in the world. Every professional I have talked to at different events was willing to talk to me for probably hours about their work. You don’t necessarily have to be passionate about certain issues when finding an internship at a non-profit, but I am most confident that by the end of your internship, you will be passionate about at least one particular issue.
Through my internship with the NCL, my ideals of social justice have been reinforced. The strike for fair wages I mentioned in my earlier blog has definitely reminded me that fighting for social justice is fighting for human rights – the rights of low-wage workers and of those who need support. By writing articles for NCL’s fraud.org on obamacare and credit card fraud against charities, I realized how there are many miscarriages of justice. People sometimes take advantage of those who are less educated, less wealthy, and less supported. I’ve learned that to become a more effective problem solver and citizen, I need to act and make a difference. I need to inform those who are unaware of their rights, which is one of the prime reasons I am in plans of creating my own consumer rights blog. During my upcoming study abroad in The Hague in the spring, I also hope to learn how to legally protect consumers who have been scammed.
– Heather Yoon ’15