Student Reflections on Internships During the Time of COVID


In the Spring of 2020, we had 18 minors and majors completing internships as part of their Human Rights Capstone requirement.  As with the rest of the world, COVID-19 had a profound impact on our students’ personal and professional lives, including the experiences at their internship sites.  Despite this interruption, our students were still able to have enriching professional development experiences that deepened their appreciation for the importance of human rights work.

Below are some excerpts from our student’s reflections on their internship experiences that highlight how COVID-19 changed their responsibilities and altered their understanding of the nature of their host organizations’ work. The reflections also show the adaptability and capacity of our students, and also the tenacity of the diverse organizations doing human rights work in chaotic times.

We are encouraged by the renewed commitment of our students and their expressed desire to continue seeking out opportunities and to remain involved in the achievement of human rights.

Rachel Jackson, Program Manager & Internship Director
Alyssa Webb, HRI GA & Instructor of the Service Learning/Internship Capstone


Fatima Ali
Intern with Everywoman Treaty
Human Development and Family Studies Major;  Minors in Human Rights, Business Fundamentals and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

“I’ve been reflecting a lot and realized this experience working for EWT has changed my initial vision of what human rights work is. Often many of us imagine human rights work as on the ground front line work. However, through this opportunity, I’ve come to learn that behind the scenes work is just as crucial. Data collection, research, networking, and different forms of advocacy all create a large impact. You can join the human rights movement in so many different ways and be certain you are making a difference.”

 


Victoria Boothroyd
Intern with Meals on Wheels, New York
Human Rights & Political Science Major

“Based on my experience working with Meals on Wheels, I would advise future human rights interns to make sure you’re choosing a legitimate organization that is caring for the people that they are helping because that can make a big difference compared to organizations that are just there to make profit and exploit resources. With the dilemma now from covid-19, people are facing problems such as not having food to feed their families forcing them to go to donation sites. It means a lot for communities to have these places to help those in times of need, and for MOW, they are helping people in the same way, just with a population facing a constant need for food security. It mentally and physically changes how people have an outlook on life. If you are going to intern for a place, make sure it is helping those who cannot help themselves in one way or another, mentally of physically. Sometimes it takes a pandemic to see another perspective and it shouldn’t. You should always put yourself in ones shoes to see if those actions do speak louder than words.”


Richard Garcia
Intern with UConn’s Office of Strategic Partnerships and Brand Development as a Corporate Social Responsibility Intern.
Political Science & Human Rights Major, Business Minor

“I think that the most important thing that I’ve learned from my internship is the power that community has. Because if my experience with Strategic Partnerships and Developments, I am ready to practice human rights, in a unique way. My business oriented internship has taught me ways that we can develop a community of practitioners in this sphere, and the good that this community can bring.”

 


Alexandra Gruner
Intern with Access Community Action Agency at Salem Village, a housing community in CT, that serves low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals.
English & Human Rights Major, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Minor

“Because Salem Village is such a new acquisition for Access Agency, the property manager has a lot on her plate as far as sorting out the finances and logistics goes. My role was designed to put another friendly face in the office and designate someone to work solely on working with residents to address their lifestyle needs. Unfortunately, I can no longer be on site to work directly with residents, but I’m still trying to do all I can to benefit them! Right now, I’m working on doing some research about how the changing federal budget for food stamps might affect Salem Village. I’m also trying to familiarize myself with how other Section 8 housing communities are coping with the virus to see if we can implement any changes!”


Aven Kelley
Intern with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England as part of their Generation Action intern program
Human Rights & Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Major

“One of the major things being a Planned Parenthood Generation Action intern has taught me is that opportunities to engage with human rights issues are everywhere. There are of course the big actions, like holding protests or writing to the legislature, but there are also the things that seem smallest but still have a significant impact, like handing out free condoms or making masks for essential workers. Opportunities to promote rights are everywhere if you know how to look.”


Valeria Popolizio
Intern with Media Voices for Children
Human Rights & Political Science Major

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, my projects at @mediavoicesforchildren have slightly shifted. Throughout the semester, my co-intern and I were in the midst of creating a national curriculum on child labor and child rights. We were working directly with the high school we attended, as there is already a human rights curriculum established there. We originally planned to go do school visits and test out some of the curriculum during the second half of the semester. Since COVID, we have taken a small pause in developing the curriculum and our efforts have been focused on what we can do right now. I have been working on helping develop the organization’s social media platform so we can stay connected even though we have to be physically apart.”


Namandje Wali
Intern with CT Alliance to End Sexual Violence
Individualized Major in Public Health Promotion, Human Rights Minor

“Even with social distancing, here at the Alliance we are still both working remotely and working with and for survivors. As we are in the process of wrapping up SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) we have been participating in virtual advocacy in the form of social media challenges and story highlights where we recognize survivors and their unique experiences! My biggest piece of advice would be to stay open minded and keep yourself out of boxes. A major part of the mission is to promote communities free of sexual violence and by working with state legislature, we are able to work towards longevity in regard to implementing policies that positively impact the common good. Having such a vague mission allows us to interpret the needs of our audience in different ways. Thus, we are able to then do different things and look at the way we approach legislation differently. A few examples of this are the many different bills that we work on. While we support the collateral consequence bill (which pardons ex-felons who have done their time and gives them the ability to have their records eradicated) we support it within limitations and with the exclusion of sex crimes. This example shows how we are able to support things that very well may benefit the people we serve but will also better our community as a whole! Staying open minded and label-free allows participation in things like this, and allows for the development of personal skills alike!”