Students discuss their 2013 internships abroad

Every summer, NYU Law students travel the globe to do internships in countries as far-flung and diverse as the Netherlands, Sierra Leone, and Bangladesh. Last summer alone, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) Summer Funding Program sent students to 24 countries, including the US. Here is a sampling of students who went abroad last summer with the help of the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice’s International Law and Human Rights (ILHR) Fellowships, PILC, and Ford Foundation Fellowships.

Gabrielle Apollon '15 (left) and Alex Connelly '15, both Ford Fellows at Conectas in 2013.Alex Connelly ’15 worked at Conectas Human Rights in Brazil: “This summer I was a Ford Fellow at Conectas Human Rights in São Paulo. I worked in their Justice Program on a number of research and policy projects, including how to increase transparency and civil society involvement in the appointment process of Brazilian Supreme Court justices. I worked alongside a truly tremendous group of lawyers, people who are as idealistic as they are intellectually rigorous. The fellowship reaffirmed my commitment to public interest and pro bono work; it also furthered my desire to pursue Latin American practice group work in my firm career.”

Akiva Fishman ’14 worked at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia: “I authored a couple papers looking first at the interaction between the European Union’s timber import regulations and Indonesia’s timber legality verification regime, and then at the consistency of a recent EU regulation with international trade law. Timber legality verification is the most recent international policy attempt to stem ongoing deforestation. Although it is problematic, it has some potential to reduce deforestation pressures. The internship afforded a wonderful opportunity to dive deeply into these issues and produce material that will hopefully contribute to the global dialogue around effective forest governance. While working on these issues I had the opportunity to interact with brilliant colleagues at the leading edge of international forest policy—and from a campus situated inside a small rain forest, no less! The experience moved me closer to my goal of positioning myself to advise governments around natural resource legal and regulatory reforms.”

Tsion Gurmu '15 (back center) with fellow intern Aneesha Lewis (back right) and members of the DCI-SL's Girl Power Program in the Rokupa community of Freetown, Sierra Leone.Tsion Gurmu ’15 worked at Defence for Children International in Sierra Leone (DCI-SL): “Working for DCI-SL put everything in perspective for me. I was exposed to the various ways that international human rights law directly affects the lives of African youth, and how a legal education can be used to advocate for substantive change. I had the privilege of working with attorneys who helped transform the legal system in Sierra Leone as it relates to the detention of children, and who had secured justice for hundreds of child victims of sexual and gender based violence. Being immersed in a nation that had overcome mass atrocities and exhibited such collective pride and strong belief systems helped me understand the importance of fieldwork experience for advocates.”

Bianca Isaias 15 worked at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman, Jordan:  “The experience of working with UNHCR in Jordan was incredibly rewarding, providing huge insight into refugee law, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. I was in close contact with young lawyers from all around the world—who shared their experiences working in their own countries and internationally—as well as with persons working in the camps who spoke of the conditions and challenges there. UNHCR does important work that directly impacts people’s lives. I was extremely lucky to work in its Amman office, not only because of the work I did, but also because of the incredibly intelligent, professional, and friendly people I had the opportunity to work with and learn from.”

Emily Kenney '14 in Amsterdam. Emily Kenney ’14 interned at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the Netherlands: “I worked with the Investigation Division in the Office of the Prosecutor in the Gender and Children Unit (GCU). GCU provides support to vulnerable witnesses as they interact with the Office of the Prosecutor, and is involved in making policy decisions regarding the prosecution of crimes against children and sexual- and gender-based violence. The placement was absolutely ideal since it aligned perfectly with my interest in investigations of sexual- and gender-based violence. It also pushed me to broaden my expertise to include issues relating to child soldiers and other child victims of crime. I worked directly for the head of GCU, Gloria Atiba-Davies, who was formerly a prosecutor in Sierra Leone. I hope to work at an international NGO that does monitoring and advocacy surrounding the ICC's work, so my summer experience was extremely useful in providing an inside perspective on how the Court operates. This knowledge will make me a much more persuasive advocate and critic of its work in the future.”

Noah Lawrence 14 worked at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in Tel Aviv: “I had a wonderful internship at ACRI: substantive research and writing assignments, with concrete opportunities to work for legal and social change; the warmest set of coworkers and supervisors I've ever had the privilege to work with, bar none; and an enriching and inspiring experience living in Israel. I would highly recommend this internship to anyone who is looking to spend a summer using the law to serve the causes of justice, civil rights, and human rights.”

Rebecca Riddell 15 interned at Zhicheng Public Interest Law Firm/Beijing Migrant Workers Legal Aid and Research Center in Beijing, China: “Every day was an education in the challenges faced by workers’ rights litigators in Beijing, as well as in the growth of a dynamic Chinese NGO. Because I am interested in the role of claims-making in improving global working conditions, this was an especially valuable experience. It gave me a lot of food for thought as far as barriers to improving labor rights and working conditions, and the staff could not have been more helpful in answering every question I put to them.”

Arlene Rivera '15 spent her summer working in Peru.Arlene Rivera ’15 worked at the Instituto de Democracia y Derechos Humanos de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (IDEH-PUCP)—the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in Peru: “Much of my time was spent researching current developments in international humanitarian law and public international law for upcoming publications. As part of other projects, I had the opportunity to learn about transitional justice mechanisms and how international law is applied domestically in Peru. Most of the work was done in Spanish, which improved my language skills incredibly. Working abroad in Peru with wonderful people reaffirmed my desire to work in international human rights.”

Matthew Simon 14 worked at the Constitutional Litigation Unit of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Johannesburg, South Africa: “The South African Constitution contains extremely progressive language, but to this day, many provisions remain relatively untested and implementation lags far behind its promises. In this environment, public interest attorneys, including those at the LRC, are playing a major role in progressively developing the Constitution and shaping the future of South Africa. Interning at the LRC's Constitutional Litigation Unit was a remarkable opportunity to engage with these exciting and developing areas of South African law and assist in cases being argued as high as the Constitutional Court.”

Marzieh Tofighi Darian LLM '13 with ILC Commissioner Marie Jacobsson of Sweden (left) in Geneva.Marzieh Tofighi Darian LLM 13 interned at the International Law Commission (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland: “I had the opportunity to work with a great Commissioner, which made this internship unique for me. And being in an environment where I could hear legal debates about very sensitive and important topics from persons knowledgeable in the field of international law taught me a lot. I was interested in international law before the internship, but this experience gave me a more realistic view of a career in this field. I am sure what I learned—both in substance and with regard to how Commissioners work and interact—will be useful in my future legal career.”

Amy Wolfe '15 (front row, third from left) with a litigant and his family outside a village court in Madaripur, Bangladesh.Amy Wolfe 15 worked at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) in Dhaka: “BLAST’s aim is to make the Bangladeshi legal system just and accessible to the poor and marginalized, particularly women and children. Their approach is comprehensive, in that it involves direct legal aid services (including mediation services) coupled with reform initiatives both inside and outside the legal system. The BLAST staff is positively delightful, and they are part of one of the most respected NGO’s in Bangladesh. Working there opened many doors.”

Evan Zatorre ’15 interned at INTERPOL Maritime Piracy Task Force in Lyon, France: “At INTERPOL, I worked on a broad range of issues in international piracy law, jurisdiction, and compliance with international treaties. Because Lyon is also a wonderful city with fantastic opportunities for recreation, culture, and the best food in France, I was also able to immerse myself in a foreign culture while I worked with world-class attorneys and analysts. Working abroad for an international organization gave me a special perspective on the effects of domestic legislation, along with experience in a field that would otherwise be nearly impossible to break into.”