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Chayes Fellows spend eight weeks during the summer working with  governmental or non-governmental organizations concerned with issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition.

Since Chayes Fellowships are international in nature, there is a strong presumption that placements will take place within organizations outside of the United States. On rare occasion, a Fellow may be approved for a U.S.-based placement within an organization that has an international scope, such as the United Nations or the World Bank. Students proposing a placement based in the U.S. must present a compelling case as to how, given the particular nature of the work and the student’s background and interests, the experience would be consonant with the mandate of the Chayes Fellowship to enable international experiences. Students should also be aware that the Chayes Fellowship Committee sets a higher standard of review for evaluating U.S.-based placements, and that – as with all proposed placements – there is no guarantee that the placement will be approved.

In looking for summer placements, students should draw on the wealth of experiences of HLS students, staff and alumni. The International Legal Studies staff is available to discuss potential placement organizations and make recommendations to interested students. Former Chayes Fellows can also serve as a resource. Please see Chayes Fellowships:  Projects and Placements to view project summaries and lists of alumni by placement organization and region (with contact information).  Student evaluations of summer placements and of the Chayes program can be found on this Chayes Fellowship page and in OPIA’s online job search database in HELIOS.

The process of looking for and evaluating placement options should begin in the fall. Students who are interested in the Chayes Fellowship program may explore these options in order to secure an approved placement:

  • Pre-Approved Placement Organizations:  Beginning on November 1, the Chayes Fellowship program provides a regularly updated list of pre-approved placement organizations that are interested in hosting a Chayes Fellow for the summer.
  • New Placement Organizations:  HLS students who are interested in working with organizations that are not on the roster of pre-approved placement organizations are encouraged to work with the new organization to register it as a Chayes Fellowship placement site.

Please see our page on Developing A Summer Project to learn more about these options.

Between November and March, students should be in contact with prospective placement organizations to discuss the nature of the summer work and try to secure a firm offer of a position.  To present their qualifications, students should send a resume and cover letter directly to the organization, unless the organization requests otherwise.  Students are encouraged to apply to a number of organizations and it can take time to secure an appropriate international placement.

We encourage students to begin seeking a placement as early as possible. Although it is not necessary to have a confirmed placement before applying for the Chayes Fellowship, students should have been in contact with possible placement organizations by the time the Chayes Fellowship program holds interviews with applicants in February, and a strong application will demonstrate a thoughtful, considered and proactive  approach to planning a summer project abroad.

Note:  Students who are not selected as Chayes fellows but are offered positions with approved Chayes organizations are welcome to work for those organizations provided that the position is not conditioned upon participation in the Chayes Fellowship.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Placement Organization

Things to Consider When Choosing a Placement Organization

While summer placements must fit within the Chayes Fellowship mandate, there is a wide range of differences among organizations and the type of summer work experiences they offer. In selecting a placement organization, students should carefully consider a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

Goals and objectives

Students should evaluate both their academic and career interests, and think about how their summer work might fit in relation to their objectives. Some issues students might consider include desire to gain expertise / experience in a particular country or region, whether they will have the opportunity to create a work product, what type of networking opportunities the internship might provide, whether they are interested in improving foreign language proficiency, what type of professional experience they might gain (i.e., will the work be relevant to, or help further, their career interests, and in what way will it do so), etc.

Students should also consider the type of work in which they are interested and how it relates to their academic and career goals. Some organizations might require a significant amount of field work, while others might involve research and writing in an office. Certain projects may involve working directly with clients, while others may be entirely computer- or text-based research. The size of an organization may affect the type of work available (e.g., large multinational organizations might provide opportunities to work on large-scale policy issues, while small NGOs might provide more hands-on, grassroots projects with direct client interactions).

Students should actively communicate with the organization to make sure they have a clear understanding of the type of roles and responsibilities they will be assigned. While organizations often provide general information about their mission and activities, students should find out as much as possible about an organization’s day-to-day operations to have a better idea of what they can expect and whether the organization is an appropriate fit.

Working environment

Given the vast range of differences relating to institutional culture and structure among organizations, students should think about which type of working environment would be the most appropriate fit with their interests and preferences. Factors to consider might include the number of people in the office and their positions (e.g., how many attorneys? other interns?); the level of formality expected (e.g., what attire is appropriate?); whether work is done collaboratively or individually; whether the office is located in an urban or rural setting; the condition of the country’s infrastructure and how that might affect daily work (e.g., power outages, transportation, health and safety, etc.). Students should also find out what to expect regarding the type of supervision / mentoring they will receive (e.g., how easily accessible is the supervisor, will s/he be in the office regularly, etc.). In addition to an organization’s institutional culture, students should seek out information about a country’s social and cultural norms, including gender roles, so that students know what might be expected and can prepare accordingly.

Skills required

Students are sometimes surprised at the high level and amount of responsibilities that organizations assign them. While many students welcome such challenges, it is important to find out what organizations expect so that students, when possible, can prepare in advance so that the summer is challenging but not overwhelming. Students considering work at an organization that requires foreign language proficiency should clarify with the organization what level of proficiency is required and how much of the work will be in the foreign language. Previous students have found it helpful to ask for very specific information regarding exactly what type of work they will be capable of doing considering their level of proficiency, and how their level of proficiency might affect other aspects of their work, such as interactions with co-workers, etc. While working for an organization that requires foreign language proficiency can be an effective way to improve language skills, students should be realistic in their assessment of their language ability.

To gain a better sense of the differences among organizations, students should actively seek out information, including contacting the organization (students should make sure to consider the quality and specificity of the information they receive prior to the summer), reviewing HLS student evaluations (available in OPIA’s online job search databases through HELIOS and from former Chayes Fellows); speaking with students who have worked for the organization (see list of past Chayes Fellows and placements), speaking with students who are from the relevant country (e.g., HLS Graduate Program students; a copy of the Graduate Program participant directory is available in the ILS and Graduate Program office and the OPIA office), consultations with Chayes Program staff, etc.



Chayes Fellows will have a variety of responsibilities that could range from research projects on topics of particular interest to the host organization, to the development and implementation of programmatic initiatives, to other tasks, depending on the needs of the placement organization and skills of the Fellow. Students should review the Information for Placement Organizations carefully and be sure that the potential placement organization understands the parameters of the Chayes Fellowship.

Past Projects

Past Projects

The exact nature of the Chayes Fellows’ projects may vary, but could include work in the areas of constitutional and legal issues in emerging democracies, reconstruction of war-torn societies, or development of political, social and economic institutions, among others. Past placements have included such organizations as: the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense in Colombia, the Legal Assistance Center in Namibia, and the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Chayes Fellows have also been involved in such work as juvenile justice system reform in China, property rights legislation in Kosovo, natural resources law in Mongolia, maternal mortality and reproductive rights in Indonesia, and an assessment project related to United Nations peacekeeping missions.

For more information, review the summaries of recent Chayes Fellowship projects and a list of past fellows and placements.