I would like to extend my deep gratitude to Mr. Brown and the McGill International Experience Awards founders, for giving me the opportunity to intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Guatemala. Thanks to your generous and kind donation I was able to learn and grow academically and professionally throughout my internship this summer. It is extremely important that people from all backgrounds get to access this type of opportunities and your support brings us, students, a step closer to bridging the accessibility gap in finding student internships.
I am deeply passionate about issues of migration, and especially about the region I am from, Latin America. Majoring in International Development Studies and Philosophy, I focus on issues in the region such as migration, humanitarian ethics, health, and gender. Thus, I was honored to be able to work this year at one of the most relevant organizations attempting to bring durable solutions for displaced people around the world. The UNHCR safeguards the rights and well-being of people who have been forced to flee. In Guatemala, they aim to bring protection to Guatemalan citizens and asylum-seekers who are trying to flee the violence that has emerged in their countries.
I was responsible for assisting case workers with case management functions, researching and compiling country of origin information for resettlement applications, and creating a database to access country profiles more easily at the time of drafting a resettlement application. I came in wanting to learn more about the nature of the UNHCR and how migration and refugee processes worked and wanting to hear different people’s stories. I feel that my objectives were achieved, and I cannot wait to apply this knowledge and experience in my future endeavors.
Some of my highlights were assisting case workers with their refugee interviews. I was able to get to know the UNHCR team better and meet (remotely) some of the people wanting to flee Guatemala for a better and safer future. Another highlight was participating in regional and country wide meetings, where I was able to meet UNHCR staff from many different backgrounds and experiences.
Moving forward, I want to further my studies with a Master’s degree in Public and Health Policy and International Affairs. I hope to be able to continue working with the refugee population and on issues of migration as this internship has inspired me to understand and be able to help people who have been forced to flee. I hope that one day I can become a full-time worker at an organization like the UNHCR. For the moment, I will return to McGill in the fall and start my honors thesis on a topic inspired by my internship this summer. I will examine how defining a refugee as someone who has ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ might impact the ways they are granted protection and resettlement, given that ‘well-founded fear’ may be interpreted subjectively.
Once again, I would like to thank Mr. Brown, Mr. Schull, and Ms. Yang, for allowing me to have this enriching experience. With your funds I was able to enjoy and focus on my internship experience full-time and did not have to stress about my living situation. I was able to support myself and not depend on another source of income for this summer. This allowed me to dedicate myself to my work at the UNHCR, remaining enthusiastic and motivated throughout the whole summer.