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My Summer Internship at a Non-Profit

Fátima shares her summer internship experience with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, courtesy of the Career Center.

Fátima shares her summer internship experience with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, courtesy of the Career Center.

About a year ago, I wrote about struggling to find something to do during my summer break as an international student. Thankfully, all my hard work paid off, for I was lucky enough to land a full-time internship with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota! I had a great summer learning the ins and outs of NGO work and immigration law. Here’s a quick review of it:

Getting There

I learned about the position opened at ILCM thanks to the Career Center. Every year, they help students learn about externships, internships, jobs, and other opportunities that we can apply to. ILCM’s internship in particular was sponsored by the Chaplain and the Social Justice Internship funds. This means that there is a long-standing partnership between Carleton and ILCM, the latter of whom has been working with and employing Carleton alumni for many years (we Carls are pretty trustworthy after all!).

Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium
Each year, a lot of Carls participate in research and internship opportunities, often aided by the Career Center.

After submitting my application, I had a relatively painless interview with Tim and Griselda, who would go on to be my amazing supervisors. They informed me that, if hired, I could choose from two vacancies: one at the Pro Bono Project and the other with the Community Defense team. Knowing I wanted to explore what immigration work is like, I expressed a slight preference for the former and, wouldn’t you know it, a couple of weeks later I got a callback offering me the position!

The next step was securing funding. Because this, as many others, was an unpaid internship, I turned to the Career Center for funds that would help me cover my campus rent and food, as well as help me save up for my following term abroad. A lot of Carleton students apply and get these funds, which ensures we are able to get enriching experiences regardless of where we go for the summer.

Working at ILCM

Cover for one of the manuals my co-intern and I worked on during the summer.
This is the cover for one of the manuals Grace and I worked on!


My official position title was Pro Bono Project Assistant, which in reality is an umbrella term that means I happily did anything and everything that the Pro Bono Project team, and sometimes other staff members, would require of me. ILCM’s Pro Bono Project mainly works training volunteer attorneys to take on DACA renewal or Naturalization cases, and then screens clients and places them with the appropriate attorney, all free of charge for all parties involved. A good deal of my daily tasks consisted of screening clients to make sure they were eligible for our services, attending team meetings, and exchanging communication with attorneys.

Throughout the summer, however, I was occupied with many other projects. Grace, the other amazing Carleton intern, and I created two new representation manuals for volunteer attorneys. We also helped with the organization of the very first annual Festival of Rights, which included a Friday spent driving around West St. Paul, handing out flyers, and promoting the event with local businesses! We also had the chance to help in an asylum-seeking case and participate in a training session for volunteer attorneys.

It was more than just work

By far my favorite part about working with ILCM was their healthy work environment and community. Every team meeting, regardless of how little or big, would start with an icebreaker. By the end of the summer, I could tell you my colleague’s sandwich of choice, a favorite childhood toy, and the song they want to be played at their funeral.

They also organized bi-weekly opportunities for us to meet a random ILCM staff member who would tell us about their life and career path. We would then get the chance to ask them questions about their work at ILCM, law school, working for an NGO, and anything else we could think of. We even had a book club! A small group of us, mostly interns, would meet up once a week to discuss Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, a book to help us navigate our work with clients who have often gone through very difficult and potentially traumatizing experiences.

My supervisors were also fantastic at making sure we were comfortable reaching out to them if we had any questions or concerns. This helped me enormously, especially in the early stages of my internships, for I was never afraid of talking to them before I had the chance to screw something over. Their trust in us, however, also gave me the courage to address issues with clients or attorneys on my own once in a while, which was often a scary but ultimately confidence-boosting experience.

The bottom line

Interning at ILCM was a challenging yet fun experience. I acquired a ton of immigration law vocabulary, got to feel the joy of seeing a case through successful competition, and learned that an attorney’s work might not be the thing for me, which is a good thing! I am forever thankful to everyone that made this possible, and I can’t wait to see what future summers have in store for me.

Poster I made for the Internship Winter Symposium.
If you want to know a little more, take a look at the poster I shared at the Winter Internship Symposium!



After a trimester abroad, Guatemalan sophomore Fátima (she/her) is looking forward to continuing her pursuit of a SOAN major and an Educational Studies minor. In addition to blogging, she works at the Admissions Office, the Spanish department, and the Communications Office. Outside of class, Fátima can be found watching cartoons, poorly playing the piano, attending Bible studies, or desperately missing her dog, Cosmo. Meet the other bloggers!