Waking up at 5 am on a humid summer day to catch a 5:46 am train to one location where you will then transfer to a 6:47 am train to another, to then take a car to the final destination, is not the ideal morning of a college student’s summer vacation day. Especially if said college student goes to bed at 2 am because tv seems more important than sleep at the time. However, I believe that if the event is something meaningful, a poor night’s sleep is nothing one can’t conquer, and waking up before the sun is surely something to confront with excitement rather than complaint. At least, that’s how I felt this morning as I prepared for my first visit to the asylum office with a client here at the human rights clinic at Cardozo Law School where I am interning.
For the past six weeks I have been helping out with the Refugee Representation Project at the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights. Through this project, the Institute takes on different asylum cases and helps clients each semester who are affirmatively seeking asylum. On the friday of my first week interning here, I met client X. She had just gotten her fingerprints done and was coming to the school to practice her testimony for the asylum officer. I got a chance to read her story before hand, but it was phenomenal to see this girl come to life from the paper when I met her and we went through the story. To be honest, it was a lot to handle–it was about two hours long, and a bit draining since it was hard material to listen to, however, it was rewarding and eye-opening. I have always said that I wanted to do human rights law, but I’ve never known exactly which fields I’ve wanted to go into, but that day I found a connection to something I had never explored. I continued to attend the meetings with Client X (there were only two after that) and each meeting was more and more meaningful. In the first meeting I just listened, but in second meeting the lawyer encouraged my participation and encouraged me to intervene and ask the client questions as well–if something doesn’t make sense or you find an area where her story contradicts itself or where she is not being clear, I was encouraged to intervene. Engaging and helping the client find a way to say what she meant in different ways was inspiring and educational. I learned so much in those next two meetings and most of all, I connected with the client in a way that is so important in this type of work.
The day of the interview was one I had awaited with excitement and nervousness at the same time. Nervousness for the client, for what would happen if she had to go back to her country, for how she could best represent herself and her case…then being in that room with the asylum officer was a brand new experience and I am so glad I was given the opportunity to be there. To se what it’s like for all in the situation–the lawyer, the client, the officer, etc, was something that I think is very important in this kind of work, and I am so glad I got the opportunity to experience that. There is more I’d like to say, but I don’t know how to express how I feel, nor do I think I can say anymore without giving specific details–but one thing I will say is that I truly believe I can be happy doing this work for the rest of my life. The night we stayed with the client from 6-9 pm going over her case, I didn’t mind going home so late–I was excited and the learning experience was something unparalleled.