Bitter Sweet Completion of my TLHRC Internship!

I can’t believe this internship has come to an end, but yet it is bitter sweet. Being a part of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has been an amazing experience that I will never forget. Midway through my internship I started to take my role to the next level by taking on more responsibilities and projects. Throughout my internship I have completed many projects such as letters to specific human rights organizations (including amnesty international), planning summer information series for American University, planning congressional briefings on pressing human rights issues, and maintaining the office by ordering supplies. This difficult but rewarding experience will help me not only at Brandeis but in my future career because it has challenged me to push beyond my knowledge and educate myself with issues I was previously unaware of. At Brandeis, I now feel more comfortable with my IGS major because I now am now more geographically and politically aware. In addition, this internship will not only help my resume for my future career but it has taught me professionalism and how to work as a team with my colleagues.

Now that my internship is complete, I would like to pursue another internship experience within a Business setting. I am very passionate about my work I did this past summer, but it will not be feasible for a sustainable career. Hopefully next semester I will have the opportunity to broaden my internship experience and have it be applicable to my future career. I hope to learn tools outside of the political realm and incorporate both of my skills.

I advise anyone that would like to pursue an internship at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to be a self-starter and be able manage stress well. Being a fellow here requires a lot of patience and great communications skills. It is an amazing experience that I would encourage anyone to take advantage of. I now have many amazing memories from the work we have done at the Commission and the people I encountered. Although this internship was great, I do not advise many people to pursue a career/ internship in human rights. I know this may sound bad, but do not take it negatively. I strongly encourage everyone to volunteer and be activists for pressing human rights issues, but it is very difficult to make a difference no matter what your internship or position may be. Most of my colleagues who are highly educated with masters and doctorates were having trouble finding a full time job. It is definitely a field that I have promised myself I will always be involved with, but it is very frustrating because it is difficult to see change.




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

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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.