Wow… I am more than halfway through my internship experience and I haven’t even realized it! That goes to show how busy and engaged I have been in the work the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is doing this summer. I can honestly say that this internship continues to surprise me because it is satisfying almost ever goal I listed on my WOW application. The one goal that I am most impressed with is the ability to do real work rather than just make copies and fetch coffee. With the TLHRC I am both pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed with the amount of work I have been allocated over the past few weeks. For you to understand what I mean I will first explain how the Commission operates. Unfortunately, Human Rights was unfunded during the budget cut, therefore the commission has no funding and has to rely on fellows to keep the commission running. Typically fellows will work for various durations, but the fellow with the year long commitment typically takes the leadership role on the Commission. Thus said, all 4 commission members are treated and respected as full time staffers. Surprisingly our government ID listed us as “Staff” and not “Intern”!!!
Being treated as a staff member is nice because you receive a lot of respect but that is not to say it doesn’t overwhelm you! Although I have been extremely busy, this fellowship has definitely taught me a lot. I found myself continuously challenging my education and awareness on international issues as well as human rights violations. Prior to my fellowship, I was unaware of the human rights crisis in Burma nor did I understand the affect a construction of a dam could cause to multiple nations such as Ethiopia and Kenya. In fact I didn’t even know where some of these countries were on a map! Yet now I am confident when discussing international issues with Congress members and Congressional staffers. It took a few embarrassing tries, but now I can officially say I got the hang of it.
Moreover, I believe I am building networking skills from this internship opportunity. Although I have not been able to benefit to the extent I hoped from networking, I have learned how to better communicate with organizations and individuals on a personal and business level. Through our countless meetings with international organizations and prominent individuals, I have learned to create intriguing questions, start conversations, and constructively figure out how to benefit both parties by taking action to achieve a common goal. Considering the fact that I am a rising junior, networking will definitely be a skill that I will utilize often. In addition, this experience will greatly contribute to my academics because I am starting to realize the correlation between politics and economics that will help me better understand how my IGS and Business major relate. Also, I have recently been in touch with Professor Rosenberger to see how I can apply this internship to my international requirement as well as potentially complete an independent study based off my work with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Although I strive for my future career to be one in business, I am enjoying my experience in DC. The TLHRC has a way of maturing its staffers to become independent, hard working, and invested individuals to international human rights violations. I do admit that I am passionate about the work I am doing and I am very dedicated to serving the international community, however I still do not see myself doing this line of work in the future. Thus far I have made amazing connections to my co-workers as well as people I have encountered through meetings and events. For example, I met an Ethiopian woman in a meeting a long with many others that requested our commission to host a congressional briefing on the human rights crisis in Ethiopia. I quickly agreed to plan this briefing and I have developed great relationships to the panelists I have been working with, as well as Lulit, the women from the meeting. Currently, I am swamped with work trying to plan this briefing so I will update you soon! I hope you all are enjoying your summers just as much as I am enjoying mine. We are almost done so lets keep up the good work and I hope to hear about your experiences as well!
Image 1: My ID! Image 2: Meeting with Laos Officials Image 3: My co-worker and I on the Capital Subway