FIU Law Student and Alumna Internship with United Nations International Law Commission

Over this past summer, FIU Law student Heather Owens and FIU Law alumna Jennifer Guardia, joined Professor Charles Jalloh at the United Nations International Law Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. Jennifer and Heather both share their unique  internship experiences below.

Name: Jennifer Guardia

Major: Law Graduate

What did you do there? How did you get your internship?

  • I assisted Professor Jalloh, who is a member of the Commission. I had taken a class my 1L year with Professor Jalloh and told him I was interested in International Law. I continued to ask for career advice and talk with him about international topics. One day during my 3L year he told me about his work with the ILC and asked if I’d like to help him in Geneva that summer doing research. I immediately said yes!

What projects did you work on? How did your internship connect back to your coursework? 

  • I did research on Universal Jurisdiction as well as the practice of the General Assembly referring topics to the International Law Commission.

What was the coolest thing that happened during your internship? What did you like most about your experience? 

  • The coolest thing was probably just being in the room and listening to the discussions. Everyone in that room is an expert in international law with diverse professional backgrounds. This lends itself to a highly intellectual conversation, and at times debate, on some of the international community’s most controversial topics. As a recent graduate interested in pursuing a career in international law, I was totally geeking out. We also went to a Moroccan reception at WIPO headquarters and had dinner with some of the commissioners where we were able to have informal conversations and ask their advice.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? 

  • This was an opportunity most students are not able to do. For anyone with the same interest as me this is a dream come true. I walked the halls of the UN headquarters in Geneva every day and sat in a room listening to international law being drafted. I never thought I would be able to do this, let alone fresh out of law school.

 What did you learn about yourself?

  • I learned that this is definitely a career I want to pursue. I already knew I was interested in international law but never had an opportunity to gain hands on experience. Seeing it firsthand solidified my decision to pursue this field of law.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? 

Speak to professors who specialize in the field of law you are interested in. Get their advice and show them you are interested. Jump at any opportunity you come across and work really hard.

Name: Heather Owens

Major: Law Student

What did you do there? How did you get your internship?

  • Spring 2017 I enrolled in an advanced international law seminar taught by Professor Jalloh. The seminar focused on the history and current topics of the International Law Commission, of which he is a member. In class, Professor Jalloh noted that he was looking for research assistants for the summer, and I immediately applied for the position. While at the United Nations I worked directly under Professor Jalloh assisting him in various research projects relating to current and past topics, attended daily ILC meetings, took notes, prepared documents, and attended various country’s receptions.

What projects did you work on? How did your internship connect back to your coursework? 

  • My work focused on the nine topics currently on the ILC’s programme of work. While the members discussed different proposals regarding the topics I provided citations from scholarly works to either bolster or contradict the proposal on the floor. During my spring seminar, I wrote on the Provisional Application of Treaties, a topic on the programme of work for the commission. Not only was I able to attend the meetings where the topic was discussed, but I also had the honor of meeting the special rapporteur for the topic, Mr. Juan Manuel Gómez-Robledo, and discuss my research with him.

What was the coolest thing that happened during your internship? What did you like most about your experience? 

  • The coolest things that happened during my internship were attending events outside the ILC’s meetings. Not only was I able to attend receptions hosted by Chile and Morocco, but I was fortunate to have dinners with several members of the Commission. During these dinners, I learned more about their specialties and the legal structures of their respective countries. What I liked most about my experience was that I saw concrete examples of what international law means, from the debates on the floor of the ILC to the various international organizations whose headquarters spread around the United Nations building.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? 

  • I now feel more confident interacting with lawyers from different legal backgrounds; I better understand the differences in our legal systems as well as the different perspectives taken as a result of our education and experiences.

What did you learn about yourself?

  • I learned that I truly have a love for international law that pushes me to work harder and do better than I have before. During my internship in Geneva, I had an hour commute to and from work where I spent nine hours a day, and I had never been happier as I was during those eleven hour days.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? 

  • My advice would be to apply for any internship that relates to the field that interests you, whether you are certain you want to work in the field or whether you feel qualified for the position. Not only will you learn if the field is what you truly want to do, but you will also learn how more capable you are than you imagined.