Testimonial from Russell Schmidt, 2013 externship participant:
BABSEA CLE is a somewhat strange organization for a law student to intern with. You at once become both student and teacher. I decided to come to BABSEA CLE not just to volunteer within Southeast Asia but also to develop my own skills. True to the clinical legal education methodology, I would ultimately end up learning through doing. I was able to utilize what I had learnt about client-focused lawyering and legal ethics through my formal legal studies to help pass on that knowledge to both students and staff in Thailand and abroad.
A large part of my internship was spent on what I would described as ‘UNDP duty’: I was responsible for working on a number of funding proposal, concept notes and reports for UNDP who are a significant supporter of the work BABSEA CLE does in the region. I also had the honour of teaching at both Chiang Mai University and travelling to the National University of Laos to do the same.
In the four jurisdictions with which I engaged (Thailand; Vietnam; Laos and Myanmar) I had the benefit of experiencing international and community development work at all its various stages. I also left with an appreciation of the different challenges that can arise in each jurisdiction and the challenges that an organization like BABSEA CLE that operates trans-nationally faces as well.
My internship at BABSEA CLE was a wonderful partnership. I was able to see that the work that I did was of real consequence to the organization in it achieving its mission; but I was also able to notice the impact that the organization had on me, improving my skills and abilities so that I can continue to use them to contribute into the future.
Testimonial from Sukrat Baber, 2012 externship participant:
I didn’t know what to expect coming into my internship at BABSEA CLE. When I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, everyone at the Volunteer House where I stayed welcomed me with open arms and courtesy. Working at BABSEA CLE is very people-oriented; all my projects were team-oriented. We met as often as needed, formally or informally, to make sure we were on the same page.
The biggest project I worked on was creating and executing a workshop promoting the creation and implementation of right to fair trial clinics. This was a wonderful and multi-layered experience. The team was led by American law professor and visiting expert on clinical legal education: Professor Doug Colbert. Eventually, we traveled to Chiang Rai and Phayao to deliver our workshop and later did the same with students from Chiang Mai University.
Other valuable professional experiences during my three months with BABSEA CLE included grant writing, community outreach and community teaching, writing a research paper on confidentiality agreements in NGOs, and more. Later in the internship I went to Can Tho, Vietnam to help facilitate a clinical legal education crash-course for legal scholars.
Complementing the excellent work experience at BABSEA CLE was the breadth of non-work activities. There is a ton of great food in Thailand! That combined with an impressive nightlife, wonderful markets, and a variety of other activities made the internship a blast.
Working at BABSEA CLE is indeed a rewarding professional, educational, and personal journey that I would recommend to anyone interested in human rights, clinical legal education, or related fields.
Testimonial from Alyssa Stanley, 2011-12 externship participant:
The winter externship with BABSEA CLE was an eye-opening experience.
Hiking up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a Theravada Buddhist temple 15km from the city of Chiang Mai, was one of our first extracurricular activities. We headed off at 6:30am on a Sunday morning and climbed the mountain in three hours. We stopped halfway up, at a monastery where we witnessed a drum procession and the receiving of alms. Wat Phrathat was really impressive – decorated in gold and surrounded by flowers and incense. According to the ‘white elephant legend’, it contains a part of the Buddha’s shoulder bone and is therefore one of the most holy shrines in the area.
International Cooking Night was another enjoyable social activity. We visited the local markets to ensure our money went to local people and then each cooked a dish native to our country (Thailand, Laos, England and Australia). The Thais made spicy vegetarian spring rolls, the Lao made a meat and rice dish, the Australians made a potato bake and the English made an apple crumble. We sat out under the stars, tried everyone’s dishes, sang, danced and became a lot closer as a group. We learned that language barriers are much more easily bridged after a few Changs (the local beer). On the weekend, we broke into groups by country and painted a mural reflecting social justice.
This externship has not only induced my first trip to Southeast Asia, but it has ensured that it won’t be my last.
Testimonial from Sunny Jeong, 2011 externship participant:
The strongest memories I have from my internship come from the close bond I made with the BABSEA CLE family. I made unforgettable Australian, American, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and Thai friends, and I still keep in contact with them. I especially enjoyed immersing myself in the Thai culture with the help of local staff and language lessons.
Working with a not-for-profit organization in a new country taught me how to be flexible mentally, emotionally, linguistically, culturally. I learned to work with various resources and limited financial resources. A lot of times, I had to think how to stretch my baht the farthest so I could help the most people and I had to be brave enough to ask for help from others.
Testimonial from Rachel Tritter, 2008 externship participant:
The sense of wonder, awe and fear that I felt on arrival in Thailand never quiet subsided, and in the three months that followed I learned more about myself, the world around me and others then I ever thought possible.
As a BABSEA CLE intern, I spent most of my days working in the office with students from Chiang Mai University and my fellow interns to develop comprehensive lesson plans. However, unlike my previous internship experiences, with BABSEACLE I was able to conduct my work while learning about the culture around me and seeing my lessons in action. We spent time learning beginner language skills, cooking, meditating with monks at the local Wat (Temple), and volunteering in orphanages and villages in the area. We spent a week living with host families teaching English in a local village, and we traveled overland to Cambodia for nearly a day and a half to monitor the 2008 elections.
The work that I, and all the people at BABSEA CLE, was doing was not only important, but appreciated. The people we were trying to help wanted us there, wanted to learn, and truly valued what we were trying to do. This immense appreciation for legal education has been my driving force since that moment, and the smiling faces of the women at the Chiang Mai women’s prison have forever altered the way I view the world around me.