Although many CLS alumni are in school, many have graduated and are currently working in exciting fields.
In the future, we plan to feature more profiles from alumni working in interesting fields.
Where do you work?
I work in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, DC. Our office’s mandate covers the resettlement and protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless individuals.
My work primarily focuses on supporting the office’s efforts to form and implement legislation that provides a path to citizenship for stateless individuals living within U.S. borders. This work has been fast-tracked due to the ongoing dialogue over comprehensive immigration reform. By a grand stroke of luck, I’ve been able to travel quite a lot over the past several months to carry out this statelessness-related advocacy work—to New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Honolulu, even American Samoa!
How did you find out about the position?
I had been in contact with the office previously—informally with a staff member in the U.S. Protection Unit (USPU), and formally with the External Relations Unit. When my contact in the USPU identified a need for an extra brain on the office’s campaign to end statelessness in the U.S., she called me to take the role. This happened shortly after I completed the CLS Program in Malang.
Did your CLS language give you an edge over other candidates for the position?
I don’t think that people in my office realized I spoke Indonesian until about three months ago, when some gay Indonesian asylum-seekers appeared in the Caribbean. The office’s Caribbean Unit was preparing to conduct refugee status determinations with these Indonesian fishermen, and I took an interest, letting the protection associate involved know that I might be able to help.
Not yet, unfortunately. The Indonesian asylum-seekers in Trinidad seem to have disappeared.
If a student is interested in following a similar career path, what advice would you give?
UNHCR’s Washington office offers many internships during the fall, spring, and summer—particularly for law students. I’d highly recommend applying for an internship in the office and when doing so, be specific about the kind of work you’re passionate about or interested in exploring.
What are some other job fields that you considered or found intriguing during your job search?
My professional interests are rather niche, so I am trying to figure out my path into my dream position. I’m interested in structures of protection for LGBTI individuals living outside of the United States, and formalizing/prioritizing the development of a “gay underground railroad” for these individuals. I’ve steered away from NGO work for the most part, looking to international government partners like UNHCR and UNRWA as well as U.S. government agencies like U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. I’m still searching for the right place for myself.
What general career or job-search advice would you give to CLS alumni who are graduating soon?
If possible, be open to the idea of unpaid internships, particularly if you’re in the DC area. It may be a lot of seemingly thankless work in the beginning, but if you make a serious impression on your superiors, you’ll pave your path for the future. Also make what you want to be doing clear to others, and keep talking about it. You never knew who you might stumble across that’ll help you open another door.