As some of you may know, my off-campus study experience in D.C. was primarily motivated by my life-long dream to work with the non-profit International Justice Mission. International Justice Mission is the largest anti-human trafficking non-profit, existing with the singular mission of protecting the poor from violence. It beautifully and effectively works by building relationships with communities and local law enforcement, training and guiding people into becoming more aware of sexual violence or trafficking. It has transformed justice systems and walked with them into rescue missions for people forced into slavery all around the world. Best of all, it helps victims of trafficking or other forms of violence get justice and sensitive aftercare. This both helps victims start a better life and reduces impunity, preventing these crimes from happening again.
Being one of the most well-known and influential non-profits, I never expected an internship. In fact, I’ve been told that I competed against around 500 or so other qualified applicants for my spot. But by God’s amazing grace, I connected with my interviewer and remembered to put “proficient in Spanish” on my resume, landing me the Latin American Regional Operations intern position. Of course, I cried a lot when I received the acceptance email.
Joining IJM wasn’t any less emotional or exhilarating. On the first day of orientation, I heard many of my heroes give tear-jerking speeches. During the gourmet (and, shockingly, mostly vegan!) lunch of grilled vegetables and freshly baked bread, the CEO, Gary Haugen himself, shook my hand, thanking me for being there. The IJM president of Latin America and I shared life stories, and I got to hear about his time as a protester back in law school in Guatemala. I met some of the most inspiring, intelligent, and gracious people I’ve ever known–and this was just day one. Once stepping out of the prestigious law firm that donated their space to IJM for the day, my fellow Hope student and I immediately blurted, “…was that a dream?”
While adjusting to the IJM schedule helped calm my nerves, the overwhelming intimidation stayed. Most interns either attended Ivy-League schools, had graduated, or were working on masters degrees. Being nineteen years old, I was by far the youngest–shocking employees with my inability to drink wine with them at happy hour. When I thought I would just be answering phones or filing, my supervisor immediately gave me important research and writing work that affects major organizational decisions. Scariest of all, every time I shared my position with people, they would proclaim: “Oh, Latin America! So you’re fluent in Spanish!” No, I am not.
This intimidation certainly freaked me out the first week–turning me into a sleep-deprived, overthinking mess. But with prayer and community, I realized that not only am I meant to be where I am, but I have been granted a fantastic opportunity. The scariness, while valid, can be turned into exhilarating energy. My Spanish or my work might not be perfect, but I do know that I will dedicatedly and excitedly try my best.