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Last summer, Melanie Botho Emmen worked at the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in Rome. IDLO is an intergovernmental organization with a mandate to promote the rule of law around the world and expand access to justice to the most vulnerable. In addition to promoting the rule of law through programs such as training judges and prosecutors and providing toolkits on best practices, IDLO is involved in sustainable development by working in the realm of environmental law and land rights.

Melanie worked in the research department of IDLO. Her primary task was working on a UNICEF project on children’s access to justice in Eastern Europe, which involved researching and drafting case studies for incorporation into the report. However, her supervisor was more than happy to accommodate her other interests and allowed her to work remotely with IDLO’s office in the Hague on health issues. Melanie spent a significant amount of her time working on IDLO’s health program, developing a report on strategies to deal with counterfeit drugs in West Africa to present to the president of IDLO. Melanie identified clear and open communication between herself and her supervisor as key to making her summer a success. She was able to convey her interests as well as understand the needs of the IDLO research department; working together, she and her supervisor were able to satisfy both demands. If she could do anything differently, she would have started mapping out a work plan with her supervisor prior to her arrival in Rome.

Melanie really enjoyed her time at IDLO. Her colleagues were extremely knowledgeable and friendly and her boss allowed her the freedom to set her own schedule to a large extent, in addition to letting her work in her interest area. She appreciated getting constant feedback on her work, which helped refine her research and writing skills. In addition, she really enjoyed being in Rome. The work schedule at IDLO allowed her to leave the office at 5:30pm each day and gave her a lot of free time to explore the city. Melanie got a fellowship from the Ford Foundation, which connected her with IDLO. IDLO takes interns outside of the Ford Fellowship, though Melanie recommends reaching out to both the Human Rights department and the head of the department with which students are interested in working.
For 1Ls interested in working abroad, Melanie recommends talking to students who have worked abroad and with speakers and panelists at the many lunch events on campus. Although networking might seem intimidating, Melanie says that people are more than willing to help you get in touch with other people, so just go say hi if you’re interested in what someone does. Also, Melanie noted that a lot of international organizations look for summer interns in March or April, so don’t worry about the job search too early!

Written by OPIA 1L Section Rep Purun Cheong