I am ending my first week in Arlington, and although I am loving it now, the week did not start off as planned. Within 5 hours of arriving to Arlington, my housing fell through and around 11pm, I had nowhere to stay. With my car full of my belongings, I luckily found the last hotel room available in Arlington on Memorial Day Weekend. I stayed in a hotel for the first 5 days, when I then secured a house just a 7 minute drive from work.
The house I am staying in is a two-minute walk from Arlington National Cemetery, and you can see the Pentagon from the street. It is a short run/bike to Washington, DC, and I am looking forward to being able to explore more on the weekends.
Now, to the internship itself. I am thrilled to be working at the International Programs Division of the National Center for State Courts. Although NCSC's headquarters are located in Williamsburg, VA, the International Programs Division (IPD) is located here in Arlington. NCSC is a non-profit organization providing technical assistance, training, and technology to advance justice across the U.S. and around the world. NCSC’s International Programs Division partners with donor agencies, host-country governments, and civil society organizations to support judicial independence and promote access to justice. NCSC IPD bids and competes with other organization to obtain projects throughout the world. NCSC has worked in more than 30 countries, throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Within twenty minutes of sitting down at my desk, I already had an assignment from a colleague. Two hours later, that same colleague was on a plane to Tunisia. Three other staff members are currently in Morocco. Almost everyone in the office has been on an assignment in the field; Not only are people working on these projects at home, but they have been able to see their work first-hand in their respective program's country.
I have completed 6 assignments this week, and I am working on 4 more. Some have included reading through international statutes, composing internal memoranda, creating a summary of a teleconference with an author of the 2015 USAID Lebanon Report, and translating a Costa Rican project contract from Spanish to English. The most daunting task as of yet is to compile the entire 2016 field report from more than 12 districts in Bangladesh, where NCSC is working on a project to improve court management and legal literacy for citizens. As each report comes in, I will have to format each district's documents, edit the English translation, and compile it for the final report. I started the assignment by reading the 70-page 2015 Bangladesh report to understand the formatting and template in which I will aim to follow. The legal framework used for work in rule of law programs is interesting because is deals with international law, while still implementing US law - it is a balance of the two. When applying or bidding for a program in another country, NCSC has to follow specific US guidelines, while also complying with the foreign country's laws and regulations.
My favorite experience this week was having the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with NCSC's President, Mary McQueen, and 5 female Bangladeshi judges that are visiting for one of the International Program's Visitor Events. I was able to hear these female judges explain their perspective of working in Bangladesh, where they have enormous power but still have to fight harder simply because they are women. One of the judges who spoke near-perfect English said, "In our society, we are considered the elite of the elite. But if a man becomes a judge, people automatically accept he has power. When women become judges, we still have something to prove." I thought that was interesting to see the parallels of gender inequality that our countries face; Even on different levels or in different capacities, the themes were the same. The 5 judges were dressed in colorful shawls, and some had decorative nose piercings. One kept taking pictures with her smartphone, as she wanted to document the meeting. Across from them sat NCSC's President, in a navy suit and heels. To have these powerful women sitting opposite each other, appearing to be so different, there were countless similarties which allowed them to come together to discuss solutions to the problems they are facing. It was powerful to be in that room for those 2 hours.
Lastly, my mom was able to come for a short visit, and we were able to explore Alexandria. There are countless options for ethnic cuisine in this area, so we tried out a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant. We drove down to Mount Vernon, and I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Alexandria and Williamsburg, including the road we were on, which looked like the Williamsburg parkway.
After attending orientation, successfully completing assignments, meeting up with college friends who live in the area, and getting to talk with my colleagues, I can already tell that both this internship and living in Arlington will be invaluable experiences.