“My Interest in International Human Rights Law Has Grown Over the Years”

My name is Manza Arthur and I’m a final year student at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. Despite my limited knowledge of the international world, as a young girl growing up in Ghana I have always been interested in International law and my interest in International human rights law has grown over the years.

Due to my interest in international law matters I thought I would take advantage of the International and Comparative Law and Legal Practice Fellowship Program offered by Suffolk to upper classmen for the opportunity to intern in various international public interest firms and institutions. Hence my opportunity to travel to Sweden to intern at an internationally reputable human rights institution, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, (“RWI”) this summer of 2015.

I have always been skeptical whenever I am about to travel to a new environment with respect to how I will adapt quickly to the routines or systems of the place, how I will relate to the people I will meet at work, how to relate and speak to my supervisor without feeling intimidated especially with RWI when everyone is so academically inclined. However I was able to brace myself with the mantra that coming to Sweden for this internship at RWI was going to be wonderful, at least that is what I thought. But at the back of my mind I kept thinking about my uncertainties.

This perception of mine changed the first day I stepped a foot on the premises of RWI. The staff was so welcoming and it was a pleasure to meet them for the first time. They made me so comfortable and without a second thought I knew I had become a part of RWI’s “family.” One of the practices of RWI was their 10:00 am fika, a time when most of the staff gathers to have coffee and interact with each other. If this has not taught me anything at all, I think it has made me realize how the staff value each other and are comfortable sharing their individual stories among themselves. This is one of the things I know I will definitely miss after my internship.

My experience at RWI has been such a great one and a good platform to think about my future career goals and plans in International human rights law. Working on some projects like the jurisprudence of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, has been nothing but enlightening. Going through the Court’s database in search of their jurisprudence on cultural diversity has educated me a lot about this regional court that I would not have known otherwise. I cannot boldly say that I was thrilled while reading through all the cases one after the other but I can tell you that the knowledge I gained from actually doing this legal research was so gratifying and I was glad I got the chance to do this.

Working under the guidance of Dr. Alejandro Fuentes I would say is such a fulfilling experience. I have learned a lot from him throughout my internship period at RWI during some of the staff gatherings and also during our meetings together while giving him updates on my progress with my research. Even in my times of frustration of working so much without any progress he was my source of inspiration motivating me every step of the way. Dr. Fuentes has always been so welcoming and I loved how I could so easily have a conversation with him with just a knock on his door without having to set up any prior appointments.

Attending RWI’s seminars, such as Professor Mark Gibney’s States’ Extra Territorial Obligations (ETO’s), Dr. Sheba Saeed’s super diversity of beggars on the streets in Northern Europe, John Cerone’s teaching on Palestine’s submission of ICC membership, only to mention a few, I would say, has been very informative on issues going on both domestically and internationally.

Although I am still navigating through my career goals, my internship at RWI has indeed helped me to narrow down my future prospects in the international field and has given me the chance to create long lasting networking opportunities that can be beneficial in the near future to enhance my personal and professional development. Also, the four core values of RWI – respect, integrity, inclusiveness, and inspiration, are what I perceive as fundamental principles I will never forget even after the end of my internship. By taking it along with me, having it at the back of my mind, and allowing it to infiltrate all the work that I do I hope to join their mission of promoting universal respect for human rights and humanitarian law wherever I find myself.

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