This summer, I spent my time interning at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Council is an intergovernmental organization with 47 member states, working to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law within its jurisdiction and beyond. As I am currently working toward master’s degrees in both Public Administration and International Relations this presented an opportunity for me to gain insight into both my areas of interest simultaneously. Due to its sheer size the Council is a highly bureaucratic body, with slow progress. At the same time, however, this bureaucracy is also what allows the organization to be effective once decisions have been made, and the European Court of Human Rights allows for actual adjudication of breaches to agreements.
My main work assignment focused on various research projects relating to human rights, with my main emphasis being on environmental issues as these relate to human rights. I also wrote some speech drafts, proofread documents to be sent out and published, and took notes at different meetings. The most valuable experience for me during my internship, however, was the opportunity to experience how the organization functions. In Europe it is extremely rare for internships to be unpaid, so as I did not get any monetary compensation for my contributions it was important to my supervisor that I get as much out of my experience as possible. She thus both allowed and encouraged me to attend meetings and sessions during which I did not have work to do per say, but where I could observe and learn. To me as a student this is far more valuable than a minimum wage salary.
I would recommend this internship experience to anyone who has the opportunity to apply, especially if this is a field you wish to enter into upon graduation. As an international student I did not initially consider going “abroad” to be a priority for me, but this allowed me to gain more connections in Europe and has been a great improvement to be experience.