Post 2: Applying Self-Care to Legal Advocacy

Being a full-time college student is enough to warrant exhaustion from any individual, but this is often coupled with extracurricular and social activities. It was during my “trial-and-error” period early in my freshman year that I learned the art of time management. In the classroom, this translated to how I divided up study hours between classes. With my extracurriculars, this had to do with prioritizing the activities that were of the most importance to me, while socially, this pertained to how I allotted time between friends and social activities. Collectively, this meant mediating all three facets of my life.

Brandeis’ Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC) offers confidential support relating to sexual and relationship violence, and practices self-care in the process. In its office, PARC has fidget toys for all members of the Brandeis community to use. (Photo credits to Juan Bordon.)

Somewhere in the midst of navigating time management, I also found myself learning a new lesson: the need for self-care. I learned that while I could probably find time for all of my commitments, it was also important that I leave time for myself, time to refuel so that I was not overworked and still had the energy to exercise my passions wholeheartedly. In short, I learned that I couldn’t just focus on allocating my time among my commitments, but had to factor in my wellbeing as well. I have been fortunate enough to have learned this valuable lesson from the amazing Brandeis professors, staff members, students, and institutions that have prioritized and encouraged this practice.

This is where the  Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit is located (and where I work!)

This lesson has been central to my positive experience as an intern at the Legal Aid Society. As an organization that helps impoverished citizens dealing with a magnitude of heartbreaking issues, the Legal Aid Society has no shortage of citizens in need of help and no shortage of things to do. I experience this even as an immigration law intern; my desk is often covered with files to go through and the DACA inbox I manage is always brimming with requests for appointments. Perhaps consequently, the busyness of legal advocacy also means that the work can be emotionally taxing. Many times when I thumb through a file, read immigration-related headlines, or meet with a client, my heart stinks due to the tragedies currently embedded in our immigration system. This makes self-care especially vital. There is so much baggage and responsibility that comes with being in a position like my own, but so much honor too. It is a privilege to engage with the stories of immigrants and to be able to assist someone in need.  Self-care is the catalyst through which that responsibility is the most efficient and one’s impact is the most sustainable.

This is where I take my lunch break. It’s my go-to spot because it faces both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges!

Self-care and checking-in on myself is how I approach my internship and all the duties it involves. While this practice is unique to the individual, I have personally found my own healthy habits. For example, I do not check my work email outside of my internship hours; I have fun and explore Manhattan after my internship ends; almost every day I take my lunch break outside of the office; and I allow myself to slow down and take a break when needed.

My sister and I have visited many NYC attractions after work hours, including the Brooklyn Bridge as is pictured with me here.

I think that individuals, especially with the drive to help others, yield a lot of power. But we are in no way invincible, even when we are pursuing what we are passionate about and even when we seemingly have enough time to do it all. Checking in on myself and exercising self-care is not a substantial sacrifice nor is it the “be-all, end-all” factor for success, but it does go a long way. This lesson, taught to me by wonderful professors, staff members, and students at Brandeis, ensures that I can do the most for myself, the passions I hope to pursue, and the populations I seek to aid. 

-Alison Hagani ’22

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