2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Hannah Sobolevitch

Internship Location: U.S Department of State

Journal Entry #1:

Hi everyone! My name is Hannah Sobolevitch, and I am a rising fourth year. This summer, I am working at the U.S Department of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).  At the core of its work, the bureau seeks to promote the human rights and individual dignity of people everywhere. The guiding principle of DRL is to champion the freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, and the rights of people to assemble peaceably at home and abroad. Before I started my internship, I familiarized myself with this mission. The words are familiar, with language pulled from two foundational documents that ground American diplomacy— The Bill of Rights and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On my walk to work on my first day, I wondered how I was about to play a role in this deeply important commitment.

When I arrived at work on my first day, the entire class of interns working at the Department had orientation. At orientation, we learned about how the Department is organized into bureaus, and how each of them work together to carry out American diplomacy. The functioning of the Department of State works like parts of a body, with each individual employee, office, and bureau working together for the collective good of the whole. The many bureaus that make up the Department have different principle missions, but they heavily rely on each other, which creates a cooperative work culture. In my first week, this is something I’ve grown to admire about the Department. In a hyper-partisan world, it is refreshing to work with people grounded in the shared mission of diplomacy.

In my first week, I hit the ground running with my tasks for the summer. As an intern in the Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy office of DRL, I help with the communication of the country’s messaging on human rights to foreign and domestic audiences. I help the office by communicating with journalists and politicians and drafting media notes, statements, and press releases about how the United States is promoting human rights, condemning human rights abuses, and celebrating human rights successes. I also help the office engage with foreign audiences through DRL’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. In this realm, I help draft and amplify posts and tweets communicating our policy platform. In addition, my team creates Facebook Live Streams where we interview activists, human rights promoters, and leaders visiting the State Department. We take these Facebook lives into the broader DC area as well, and we have been able to interview people in various Smithsonian museums and on the National Mall. This is one of my favorite parts of the internship, as it has given me the opportunity to engage with incredibly impressive and inspiring people.

My first week was exciting, as it feels like it was the beginning of a long career in public service. I am looking forward to more incredible experiences, as I continue my internship this summer. I am privileged to work in an office whose work is driven by the recognition of the fundamental rights of every individual everywhere. To play a part in that, even if just for 10 weeks, is really special.

Journal Entry #2: 

It is hard to believe that I have been working for the State Department for a couple of weeks now. My days have quickly ordered into routine, and it is nice to feel comfortable and content with my work. Every day is a small peek into the reality of life post-graduation in the ‘real-world.’ This ten-week long test run has made me excited for what is to come. I can tell that the skills that I am acquiring here at the State Department will be invaluable for my professional development. Each week, I am equipped with more knowledge about how the State Department works, how it functions in the broader federal government, and how it implements foreign policy. Each day, I grow more inspired by my bureau’s mission to advocate for human rights globally. 

The mission of my personal work has become more defined over these past few weeks. Every morning when I walk into my office, I read a compiled list of foreign policy stories from the morning and previous night.  From those articles, I select country specific press clips that cover human rights news and send them to the press portfolios that I help cover, East Asia Pacific and Africa. I appreciate this allotted time in the morning to catch up on foreign policy stories. It helps me stay informed about relevant current events, and this information keeps my prepared for other aspects of my job. I have been fortunate enough to be able to help two team in my office, the press team and the public diplomacy team. For the press team, I have drafted materials for press briefings, statements for the State Department Spokesperson and Secretary of State, and a Presidential Proclamation. It is a surreal experience to see your words become integral components of policy, and I am so appreciative of the opportunity to have a voice in the international human rights dialogue. On the public diplomacy side, I have helped facilitate our bureau’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. As part of this task, we coordinate Facebook Live interviews with human rights activists visiting the State Department as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program. My favorite interview we’ve done so far is with two gender based-violence activists from South Africa. The passion with which they spoke about their work and commitment to ending gender-based violence was moving. 

I am excited for what’s to come in the following weeks of my internship. I cannot thank the Parent’s Fund enough for their generosity. This has already been such a meaningful and important experience. 

Journal Entry #3: 

Working at the United States Department of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor was one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my academic life. Over the past ten weeks, I was fortunate to meet and interview human rights activists, participate in policymaking, facilitate the communications side of human rights policy, and establish an impressive knowledge of global events. As I close out my internship, I reflect fondly on all the wonderful and inspiring people I’ve met and the important work I’ve done.

Throughout the summer, I had the opportunity to meet many civil and human rights activists from around the world. Each of the people I had the honor to meet taught me something incredibly valuable. They showed me that to stand up for the inherent dignity of another person, even if they think, look, or speak differently than you, is an immeasurably important act of bravery. Each of the people I met put something-- their lives, their income, their reputation—on the line to stand up on behalf of another person. To simply be in their presence pushed me to think more critically about how I can do that for others in small and big ways. In my History and Public Policy classes, I have studied and written about grassroots movements that sought to promote human rights and the policy routes by which lawmakers worked towards securing them.  Working at the State Department animated these lessons in the present, as I actually met inspiring change-makers and spokespeople for human rights and participated in the policymaking to protect those very rights. Human rights advocacy is not a movement confined solely to history or academic study, but a very much active and necessary pursuit in the present. This summer was a connecting moment for me. It showed me that the classes that I’ve taken, the three-hour seminars, the homework, the exams, and papers, and group projects have all done the important work of preparation. Combined, they have molded me into a person informed and prepared for the challenges of the outside world—a person that can have a voice in important matters like human rights policy. Sometimes, that important fact gets lost in the mundane business and stress of the day to day life of a student.

I am beyond grateful for the generosity of the Parent’s Fund. Without their support, I would not be able to have this experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The Parent’s Fund’s kindness allowed me to explore a new city, meet new people, gain professional skills, and attain genuine pride in the work I’ve done. The Fund’s generosity in promoting public service confirmed my desire to work in this area post-graduation. I have had a wonderful summer, and I appreciate everyone for following my journey through these blog posts!