Defending Human Rights: A Swedish Intern in New York

Walking pass the Nobel Peace Prize in the office reminds me of the importance of Human Rights Watch (HRW), with whom I am currently pursuing a 10-week internship. In times of growing intolerance and rights-rejecting populists around the world, defending human rights is more important than ever before. Interning in the U.S. through a visa sponsored by the SACC has been an enriching experience, but how did a 23-year old Swede from Gothenburg end up in New York and what does an internship at HRW imply in reality?

HRW documents human rights abuses around the world and defends human rights worldwide. Founded in 1978, the HRW acts as a monitor and advocate and is an independent voice for human rights since no donations from governments are accepted. With the guidance of the working methodology ‘Investigate, Expose, Change’, besides documenting  devastating conditions for people around the world, HRW also makes recommendations to policymakers on the actions they should take.

What do I contribute, you probably wonder at this point. As the Communications Intern my role is to analyze the media coverage and to ensure that the reports receive worldwide attention. Frequent tasks include formalizing internal briefing documents about the coverage in different languages (thanks to Google Translate and my kind colleagues for the assistance with Chinese and Arabic!), preparing social media posts aimed for journalists, assisting in the coordination of the release World Report 2018 and researching key journalists. Moreover, I attend internal workshops, organizational meetings and sessions with external speakers such as the prominent professor Michael Doyle.

The road to HRW was not a clear path. Previously, I founded the first think-tank on youth policies in Sweden, been the president for the Swedish Association of International Affairs, and chaired the IAPSS World Congress 2017 for 150 students from 33 countries around the world. My project management skills in combination with research skills acquired through my undergraduate program in Political Science, with a major in International Relations, at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and the regular writing in English during my Erasmus semester at the University of Vienna have proven to be invaluable.

So, what do you do if you are considering interning in the U.S.? SACC-USA supports Swedish and Finnish Young Professionals  who want to test their wings in the U.S. They sponsor the J-1 visa, even if you found the internship on your own or via their Trainee Program. Read more about it here. Accommodation can be tricky in a costly city such as New York – patience and Facebook groups (e.g Bopoolen and New York City Housing) is the secret recipe for success. Moreover, SAS Youth Fare is remarkable – I booked my flights 18 hours in advance for the price of 2600 SEK, including the return ticket!

My time at HRW has been meaningful in so many ways. If you want to grow whilst contributing to a better world together with pleasant colleagues, I highly recommend you to pursue an internship with HRW.

Greetings from New York,
Axel Nordenstam (@axelnordenstam)

Posted in Success Stories.