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IHRP Summer Experiences: Isaac Gazendam

Rights Review (RR): Which organization did you work for and in which city and country?

Isaac Gazendam (IG): The Environment and Human Rights Division (EHR) of Human Rights Watch (HRW), in New York City, United States.

RR: What were the highlights of your fellowship?

IG: I enjoyed the variety of projects and the opportunity to work with a diverse and dedicated team passionate about human rights and the environment. I worked on a major report throughout the summer, but I was consistently tapped for smaller projects, which allowed me to hone different research skills and gain substantive knowledge in a variety of subject areas. Also, it was gratifying to see my work used directly in HRW reports. Not to mention, working in the Empire State Building was pretty neat!

RR: What were some of the challenges that you faced this summer?

IG: Working under a supervisor in a different time-zone could sometimes be challenging, but it was not insurmountable. Honestly, the biggest challenge was dealing with the New York summer heat in an apartment without air conditioning. That, and not being able to partake in the city’s incredible food scene because I had just had jaw surgery.

RR: What were some of your first impressions of the country/city where you completed your fellowship? How/did these impressions change over time?

IG: New York is huge! While it seemed just as humongous as I explored it over the summer, I came to recognize and love the smaller communities within the city. I came to understand how New Yorkers identified as strongly with their neighbourhoods as with their homes. I left the city loving it even more than when I arrived. It was invigorating to be part of such a vibrant, diverse community.

RR: Share anything interesting about your experience.

IG: In 2019, New York hosted World Pride and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Marching with HRW in the Pride Parade during one of the biggest LGBTQ+ events in history was an amazing experience!

RR: What advice do you have for students hoping to be an IHRP fellow next year?IG: Start looking early and don’t be afraid to search for something outside of the suggested organizations if it matches your interests. And reach out for help in networking! To me, EHR at HRW was a dream, but with a little networking and a lot of persistence, it came true! Also, do it! The IHRP fellowship is an unparalleled experience that allows you to grow personally and professionally, so take full advantage.

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