Kyungmin On, Class of 2015

Major: Sociology and Government; Organization: Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates; Location: Burlington, VT

Kyungmin On, Class of 2015

By having had a lengthy discussion with the director of what VIAA was all about, I entered the summer more than excited to start my internship. Frankly, I was a little worried going into the legal internship at first that I would be given the daily mundane organizing tasks such as going through paperwork and stapling. After the first day of my internship, I found out that these worries of mine were unwarranted. Following introductions, I was taught some of the basic things that the office did for people, like helping clients properly fill out N400 forms (naturalization forms that immigrants must fill out in order to become a US citizen if they meet certain requirements). I was equipped with basic skills in the first few days to actually deal with clients of my own regarding simple matters. Although I was an intern with limited experience, the director, my sponsor, treated me with upmost respect, often introducing me as her colleague in preliminary meetings with potential clients. In this kind of friendly environment I was able to flourish and ask any questions that I had to the director.

I learned many things going through the internship this summer. The most important thing I realized working for the none-profit is that the people living in the United States were really blessed. Often, people coming to our office were people who had been victims of rape, political persecution, and torture survivors from third world countries. I was given the task of reading Declarations (written statements of why people are seeking asylum in the United States) of many of these clients in order to better assist the lawyers in the office. The anecdotes in these declarations were stories that you saw in movies. It made me realize how fortunate we were to live in the United States not having to worry about having our basic freedoms taken away (such as the freedom of speech). It also made me embarrassed of American culture to a certain degree. It appeared to me that Americans were concerned with trivial things such as celebrity gossip and such when there was still so much suffering in other parts of the world.

The internship raised many questions for me regarding the American immigration system. More than anything it made me realize how flawed our system is. Often times, it appeared to me that the system turned away people in desperate need of a safe haven under the reason that they did not have proper legal documents with them (and thus could be potential terrorists). By working directly with immigration law I realized how desperately this country needed immigration reform.