I’ve spent the past two months as ELAW’s summer intern, working on a wide variety of projects. Some highlights include assisting Maggie with the Fellowship Program and spending time with Imrich and Maria (which included a night of Salsa and Bachata dancing!); using my French to communicate with lawyers from the Central African Republic and to work on a website for a Haitian environmental law association; doing research on the Miskito people of Nicaragua and plans for oil exploration in the area to help Maggie draft a proposal for an ELAW project; and working with Jen to build a website to help facilitate collaboration among lawyers in the Caribbean. I should also mention how privileged I feel to be able to go to anyone on the ELAW staff with questions, and to always receive a patient, thorough explanation. That has also been a key highlight of my internship.
My experience at ELAW has been quite an inspiring and encouraging one. I have always been passionate about protecting the environment, but I have also sometimes felt frustrated and somewhat pessimistic about the state of our environment and our ability to protect it. I was very excited about this summer internship and hoped it would teach me about a non-profit organization, expose me to the legal aspects of environmental protection, and maybe even help me figure out what to do with my life after I graduate from college. I wasn’t expecting this experience to reshape the way I view environmental protection, but it definitely has.
Working at ELAW has made me realize how much a small group of determined, dedicated, intelligent people is capable of. ELAW’s work has such an impact! I am still astounded by how much these people have been able to and continue to accomplish. During my first weeks at ELAW, when Lauren would check in on me to see how everything was going, I found myself (constantly) blurting out that I couldn’t believe that ELAW does all it does. After interning here for two months, I definitely believe it, and I understand more how it works. Each day I am here I feel a tremendous admiration for the staff I get to work with and for ELAW’s partners abroad.
Working at ELAW has proven to me the power and importance of community. With some translation to help the process run smoothly, hundreds of people are working together to share ideas and strategies, tools and resources, success stories, and encouragement. ELAW helps connect these people with one another, working as a link between lawyers all over the world. I don’t know where we would be if this type of international community did not exist. ELAW exemplifies the endless possibilities and unlimited potential of collaboration despite thousands of miles of separation, cultural differences, and language barriers. I have so much more optimism about the future of our environment, and the power of people working together to protect it, because of this experience.
In addition to teaching me an enormous amount and helping me to develop a more positive outlook on environmental protection, this internship has been fun! The staff at ELAW US is friendly, welcoming, supportive and often hilarious. I have thoroughly enjoyed every staff meeting and Bern’s sense of humor. Showing the summer fellows around Eugene and the Oregon Coast during their first visit to the United States was also fun and rewarding, as was finally figuring out how to change something on a website-in-progress after blindly trying to do so for hours.
My internship at ELAW has been incredibly educational and inspiring, and I feel like I have actually helped a cause that I care deeply about. This has been such a gratifying experience. I will carry what I’ve learned at ELAW with me as I return to college and decide what to do with my life. Thanks to everyone at ELAW for providing me with this opportunity. I will miss you!