Ayah Kutmah, BA International Studies; BA Political Science ‘20
Human Rights Watch: Middle East and North Africa Division
New York City, New York
Interning at Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been the most valuable experience in my undergraduate career. I was not only exposed to the real and dirty work of human rights violations, recording, and advocacy, but I was also surrounded by some of the most brilliant and innovative people in the field, both internal and external to the organization. My regular daily duties at HRW consisted of going through local media sources and creating daily media digests to analyze and pick out possible human rights violations and responses to them, taking notes on various staff meetings and meetings with visiting government and United Nations delegations, and other smaller tasks relating to translation and research. The bulk of my work, however, was the research I did with Human Rights Watch country field researchers and a Saudi women activists campaign we launched. With respect to the research, I was paired up with the Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine country researchers (who were, more often than not, based in these countries or the surrounding region), who had been working on a certain report. These conversations, and the advice given to me, allowed me to direct my area of focus from the larger field of human rights advocacy to a desire to work on international transitional justice and post-conflict reconstruction. In essence, this internship became the single most influential work I had committed to, and it could not have been possible without the Program in International and Comparative Studies (PICS) at the University of Michigan. Ms. Amy Rose Silverman, thank you so much for this gift and for allowing me the opportunity to pursue such a unique opportunity, and to learn and build from it. It could not have been possible without you, the scholarship, and PICS.
Chelsea Racelis, BA International Studies; BBA Business Administration; Honors ‘19
Humanity in Action Fellowship
During the summer of 2018, I was a fellow in the Humanity in Action (HIA) Fellowship in Warsaw with the assistance of the Rose Silverman Internship Fund. The HIA Summer Fellowship brings together young people from the U.S. and Europe in seven cities: Warsaw, Sarajevo, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Atlanta, and Detroit. In June, along with 24 other young people from the U.S., Poland, Ukraine, Greece, and Germany, I studied human rights and social justice issues in Warsaw, using Poland as a case study. The Warsaw fellowship is unique in that it has an input and output phase—or rather, a “theory” and a “praxis” phase. I spent the first two weeks learning about Poland’s historical and contemporary issues through speakers, workshops, and visits to museums and historical sites. One of the most striking things I did was the (In)Visible History and Vibrant Present in the Street of Warsaw walking tour. As Warsaw was almost completely bombed out in World War II, its history—especially its Jewish history—has little to no physical presence. In my blog post for the fellowship, I wrote about what I think this means for remembrance and responsibility. I was also in Warsaw in the midst of great political turmoil—Poland’s current nationalist, right-wing government passed a law at the end of June that forced one-third of the Supreme Court to retire. There were mass protests that our fellows had the chance to witness and take part in, as our hostel was next to the Supreme Court. In the last two weeks, we worked in teams of three on projects with local nonprofit organizations, applying our skills and new knowledge to a real challenge. I would like to thank the Program in International and Comparative Studies along with Ms. Amy Rose Silverman for allowing me this incredible opportunity to travel abroad, to learn from people with diverse backgrounds, and to pursue my aspirations. My hope is that I have represented the University of Michigan well in my travels, and that I will bring home and share as much as I can of what I have learned from my experiences abroad.
Leah Weinstein, BA International Studies; BA Spanish; minor, Gender and Health ‘19
UBELONG: Shelter for Girls
I am a firm believer that travel is the best way to learn about the world, and my time in Peru proved that to be correct. The expertise of Michigan professors is an invaluable resource, but nothing can replace traveling somewhere to immerse yourself in a new culture. As an International Studies and Spanish major, and Gender and Health minor, working at the shelter was the perfect intersection of all three of my concentrations. I learned about Peruvian and South American history, culture, and politics, I improved my Spanish greatly, and I got to work with an at-risk population of young girls, many of whom had experienced abuse or other family issues. The whole experience would not have been possible if it were not for the generosity of Ms. Amy Rose Silverman and the Program in International and Comparative Studies (PICS). I was able to use the combined funds for my airfare and the program cost for UBELONG, the volunteer organization I went with. I would like to thank Ms. Silverman for her commitment to global education and support of international internships such as mine. International experience is critical for someone like me who wants to have a globally focused career, and to make those experiences accessible to students by removing the financial barrier is so important. I would not have traded this experience for anything, and I am so grateful for the support Ms. Silverman and PICS provided me.