SehMeSerrious wrote:worldtraveler wrote:OP, I know which organizations you're talking about. One of them works with some law school clinics on cases. Yale, NYU, Stanford, and Berkeley have chapters of it. If you want to continue working with Arabic speaking refugees or want to build on the connections you have one of those schools may work well. I imagine there would be some law students externing there in the spring as well so you should talk to them.
To get into this field, you need a ton of experience. Don't think about law school until you have some work experience, done a Fulbright, or a lot of experience working abroad. Do a lot of internships, try and get funded language study, and then think about law school. I know you say you're comfortable living in a third world country, but doing human rights work is completely different. A lot of lawyers are followed by government security, arrested, have their belongings searched all the time, and it's really a lot less glamorous than what you might think. From your post, quite honestly you sound a bit naive, and I would suggest you try out the field before getting too passionate about it.
Also, in terms of debt, really research IBR and LRAP programs before you go. It's a little known fact that the public service IBR does NOT cover work with the UN or non-US based NGOs much of the time. You need to factor that into consideration as well.
Finally, drop the righteous anger. You're only going to annoy co-workers and head towards burnout.
Wow thanks for the tip! I'll definitely look into those schools now, maybe contact some of the faculty there.
I'm currently in Egypt on fully funded language study as part of my undergrad (Arabic major) and I'm trying to get an internship that'll start at the end of January. I hope to learn a lot from this experience and use it as much as I can to continue in this field. I am going to apply for a Fulbright for after my graduation and hopefully get in the CASA program which is one of the most prestigious Arabic study abroad programs.
I really wish I had made these posts anonymous, but... - I've already been harassed, snatched, and in a few incidents, beaten by the police and the "security" here because based on my appearance, the areas I go to, and the people I talk to (especially if I speak Arabic instead of English) as I am often assumed to be an economic migrant and in many cases I run into as many incidents of maltreatment as some of my Sudanese friends do, and in some cases, more. This actually surprises a lot of people, especially given that I carry my American passport on me 24/7 and also due to the fact that abuse of Asian migrants is generally ignored, but the treatment I receive here is very, VERY different from what most American students get. Actually several Fulbright scholars I study with noted how shocked they are at my anecdotes, because for many of them, a European/"American" appearance is as good as a diplomatic passport. For me, even after showing my American passport (if I am "randomly" stopped/searched) they get confused and insist that it is impossible for me to be American. This problem really gets amplified when I speak in Arabic. Whereas some students get applauded for trying to speak in Arabic, I get assumed to be a powerless economic migrant and refused entry to nicer establishments and generally ignored. It's really blatant. My first week here, I walked in a juice bar with my friend and immediately the owner walked up to my friend and said in English, "Welcome, how are you doing! Come, come!" and took him to the front of the line, whereas I got ignored even after getting to the front of the line until my friend noticed and complained. Then the owner and workers look really confused because he's white and I'm not and then shrugged and took my order. It doesn't work like that for all Asians and Asian-Americans, but because I decided to "integrate" as much as possible during this first semester abroad by not wearing expensive clothes/suites 24/7 and not sticking to touristy areas and because I try to speak Arabic whenever I can, I get to experience firsthand some of the BS people have to face.
It is actually because of this maltreatment that I became determined to work as a PI lawyer over the last five months.
As for IBR and LRAP - thanks for letting me know! I was not away of the fact that they do not cover UN or non-US based NGOs much of the time. I will definitely look into that. I am not adverse to first building up my resume in other areas before moving to my ultimate goal of international human rights law. I'll ask some of the legal works about their experiences with that as well.
And finally - my righteous anger is something I'm learning to channel positively over the last semester. I'm not gonna lie and say it wasn't tough facing all of that; it definitely was. But now I am ready to start taking proactive steps in facing these issues. I am confident in my ability to act objectively in dealing with these issues; one organization said that the hardest part of their job was telling people that they did not qualify for resettlement programs despite the heart-breaking challenges that they face. I believe that I can empathize with their situation without my work being comprised by bias.
I'm not trying to pick on you personally, but the bolded paragraph just confirms my statement that you're a bit naive. That type of stuff is really pretty minor, and is obviously racist and annoying but it's really...not that big of a deal. As another poster pointed out, doing human rights legal work is COMPLETELY different from just living in a foreign country. This all depends on where you work, but if you plan on staying in Arabic speaking countries, you will get harassed. You will certainly get followed around by government security, have e-mails monitored, maybe even get arrested. The more effective you are, the more this stuff happens.
I worked with an NGO this summer. My apartment was broken into and searched, twice, about things we were working on. Co-workers got arrested, one had an assassination attempt, and the like. This is rather extreme but for human rights work in the Middle East and Africa it's fairly common. If you are going to work in Egypt on refugee issues you really, really need to think about this stuff. Egypt recently threatened to pull out of various UN treaties on non-refoulement, refugee treaties, and the situation for human rights workers there can be fairly tense. If you struggled to deal with the stuff you wrote about before, then you might be in for a rude awakening.
Also, especially if you start working at a refugee center, you need to be extremely careful about socializing with refugees from Sudan. Sudan has a huge security force present in Egypt, and probably about 1/5 people claiming to be refugees from Sudan are really working for the government. The Egyptian government knows they're there, and it's not like they're really doing anything to stop it. Some of them might even be claiming to be NGO workers or human rights defenders. I've seen it happen where foreigners working with NGOS involving the Sudanese give out info to people they think are refugees or Sudanese NGO workers and that info ends up going straight to the government, which can be really dangerous for those who are legit human rights workers.