First Week at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Dear all,

I hope you are enjoying your summer adventures! My summer has just begun in our amazing capital. This summer I am interning at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington DC. I applied to this internship because its mission is to promote, defend and advocate for internationally recognized human rights norms. As a Brandeis Bridges Fellow, I am very passionate about international human rights due to the many violations I have witnessed during my recent trip to Israel. Moreover as a Brandeis student, I am proud to work for the TLHRC because this commission was created in honor of the founding Congressional Human Rights Caucus Co-Chairman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust Survivor, who dedicated his congressional career to achieving human rights globally. The TLHRC now works to encourage members of congress to actively engage in human rights matters and to advocate on behalf of individuals or groups of people internationally whose human rights are violated or are in danger of being violated.
In addition to all of the TLHRC’s great work I believe its work is unique because it is a bipartisan commission. This summer I will be working on the Democratic Staff but I still have the opportunity to work very closely with the Republican Staff. The two co-chairmen who are very different individuals but can relate when it comes to their passion for human rights are Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-VA). I actually found this internship because of Congressman McGovern. Last summer and the fall after my high school graduation I interned for the Congressman’s Worcester and Leominster district offices. Through this internship experience I gained incredible connections to his staff who then helped me find this internship within a few weeks.
Being in DC for the summer is something that is not new to me because growing up I spent a lot of time visiting my cousin in Maryland. However, this time when I got to DC everything just felt different. This time I felt like I wanted to go home and be back in the care of my mom after a long, rigorous year at Brandeis. I think at first I was just nervous to be an “adult” away from home and on my own but surprisingly working at the commission did not intimidate me or scare me.
The first day of my internship was interesting but a mess on my part. I woke up at 6 AM to be sure I was as ready as I could be for our 9 AM meeting time. This is where reading emails correctly comes in handy because we were actually instructed to meet our boss at 10 AM outside of the Ford House Office Building. This is unfortunate because I was looking for the office inside the Ford House Office Building since 8:45. Thank God for smart phones because I was able to re-read the email and wait at the correct spot at 10 AM with my fellow interns. Meeting the other two interns was nice, but this is when I started to get nervous.
I quickly discovered I was the youngest fellow the commission would have and that my fellow interns were both Rangal Fellows with years of international experiences. The Rangal fellowship is a fellowship through the State Department that basically sets each fellow up to become a diplomat. Stan is a recent graduate from Northeastern, and Sara has been working internationally on refugee cases for the past six years. I was glad to know there would be other people sharing the same experience with me this summer regardless of the different stages of our lives.
After getting to know Sara and Stan we soon had our internship orientation. Through this orientation I learned that we would have a unique opportunity because we would be treated as fellows not interns. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is a bi-partisan and unfunded commission under the Foreign Affairs Committee. This Commission is unfunded due to the budget cut on human rights so it is crucial that the Commission has fellows in order to keep running. Typically TLHRC fellows will stay up to a period of six months with one lead fellow and three other fellows. Thus said, we were expected to quickly jump into work and pick up on what the other fellows left behind.
At first this was difficult because I did not know what I was supposed to do and I felt like wasn’t doing enough. However, by the third day I found myself to be very busy and the day seemed to go by much faster. The one thing I did find difficult was getting used to the 9-5 life in a cubicle. I just kept thinking to myself, “How do people do this for their whole life?” Thankfully at the Commission it is not that bad because we have 2-3 meetings a day, but it will still be a challenge for me to get used to. From this week I have learned a lot about my studies, and myself; but I have also realized that I am not exactly sure if this is the right career path for me. But on the bright side I was able to see Nancy Pelosi at a reception on Tiananmen Square ☺
If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission please visit our webpage. Also if you would like to read up on any of our current briefings or hearings please look into our hearings and briefings tab. One that I suggest you check out is our briefing on the Human Rights and the Escalation of Violence in Sudan . We have many more briefings and hearings coming up this month on the Humanitarian crisis in Iraq, Human Rights violations in Burma, and Human Rights in Haiti. I will keep you posted on both my experience and what I am working on.

 

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