Over this summer I undertook two projects: one as a legal intern at AIPFE Cyprus, an organization that creates legal and societal frameworks necessary to empower women in politics, leadership, and STEM, and another as an International Legal Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
Although AIPFE is a European organization, my chapter was more regional, and I was their first ever legal intern. This meant that I was given interesting work, a lot of freedom to pursue my own interests and a lot of meaningful work that required responsibility that I wouldn’t have gotten at a larger NGO.
Over the summer I was closely working with a sociologist to revise and update a Code of Conduct document. I was mapping out local labor laws in most European states to use as guidelines, while she was looking into the societal effects each law has had with the purpose of providing businesses with gender-related training and an upgraded code that will be embraced by Cypriot society. I am particularly proud to have worked on this project because I was exposed to legal research across Europe and part of a project that will have a real positive influence on women’s lives.
At the same time, I got to research a topic very close to my heart: the treatment of foreign domestic workers in my home country. I was specifically looking into the human rights and contract violations domestic workers are experiencing. By interviewing these women, I realized that most were not aware of their rights. This is because a lot of the policies and legislation are written primarily in Greek and there are very few informational leaflets and videos to educate the workers about their rights. I further identified four major challenges faced by foreign domestic workers in Cyprus; (1) poor working conditions, (2) unfair compensation, (3) constraints on their freedom to have a personal life, and (4) verbal, physical, and sexual abuse that often goes unreported or receives no attention from the appropriate authorities. By putting these issues on paper, I am hoping that more NGOs will come up and implement initiatives that will mitigate the challenges faced by foreign domestic workers.
Going into my summer, I felt well-equipped by Penn Carey Law. The Law School at Penn has allowed me – even as a 1L – to take classes that would give me the foundational knowledge to have a meaningful summer. Biddle Library does an excellent job supporting and guiding students through foreign case law and international legal sources. Taking “International Law” was also very helpful for understanding how states and individuals fit in the international system, especially regarding human rights domestically and in supranational entities like the European Union.
Coming back, I feel more well-rounded as a person and law student. I have discovered my passion for international human rights and will be pursuing a certificate alongside my degree. Moreover, I feel better prepared to continue my educational career, which includes a heavy course load on international law and cross-border transactions. I feel ready to begin my 2L year and bring into the classroom my unique experiences and perspectives.
This experience has also prepared me professionally, I will be spending my 2L summer at an international firm, both in their U.S. office and in one of their European offices. Because of my exposure to European law over the summer, I will be able to get the most out of my experience in Europe, as I will be focused on practicing and learning rather than figuring out the legal framework of the country.