Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This dispatch from Megan Smith L’16 is one in a series of first-hand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. Smith received her B.A. from Brown University.
This summer I am working at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Washington, D.C. My opportunity at the UNHCR is allowing me to build upon my past work experience at Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and Penn Law’s Transnational Legal Clinic (TLC).
During my 1L summer, I worked at LHR in Pretoria, South Africa, as a Penn Law International Summer Human Rights Fellow. I assisted asylum seekers navigate domestic laws and the South African immigration system to acquire legal status in South Africa and to ensure fair treatment by the Government and local entities. In the spring semester of my 2L year, I joined the TLC, which allowed me to learn more about America’s immigration system while representing clients. Together these legal experiences gave me a valuable perspective on refugee issues and allowed me to develop advocacy skills.
These past work experiences helped prepare me for my current summer work experience at the UNHCR. Since joining the UNHCR internship team, I have gained a new perspective on refugee advocacy work. However, at the same time, I have noted a common thread shared by LHR, TLC, and the UNHCR — a deep commitment to the social and legal needs of refugees. In just my few weeks working here, I have had the opportunity to witness my supervisor and other UNHCR units work tirelessly on behalf of refugees and asylum-seekers.
After I finish my internship at the UNHCR, I will be returning to Penn Law to complete my final year of law school. I intend to use the year to complete the requirements of the Global Human Rights Certificate by taking courses in other Penn graduate schools. Moreover, I will be pursuing post-law school career opportunities that will allow me to continue working with refugees and human rights issues.
Lastly, I would not have been able to pursue this opportunity at the UNHCR without funding from the Equal Justice Foundation. Their support has allowed me to further delve into an area of law that I would not have been able to otherwise.
- Megan Smith