by Ellen Rehnberg, Mount Holyoke College, USA
I hesitated a long time before I applied for the BABSEACLE Legal Studies Externship Clinic: it was clearly meant for law students and although law was something I thought I might study – I had only just finished my first semester of American college as an international student!
But I did apply and when I was accepted, I was thrilled. I was still afraid I would not have the skills of a law student and would “fail”, but I thought I’d “read up” on law before I went. Of course, that did not happen because finals were more pressing, and next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Thailand, thinking ‘what have I got myself into?’
I need not have worried. Yes, the other interns were law students and I felt inferior. But everyone around me was incredibly supportive, includ-ing the other interns. I learned my first important lesson: I am the one who judges myself harshly. No one else thought I was not capable of doing the assignments.
Our first big challenge was working with Professor Doug Colbert, of the School of Law at Maryland University, on the pre-trial detention project. I could see how much having a law background really would help, as we did research and worked collaboratively to put together a workshop. But, in fact, we were all equal in that we were students learning how to be teachers. We all learned how to write lesson plans and plan activities and do role-plays. We all had to read up on Thai law about the rights of stateless people and transgendered people before working with the single mothers of Wildflower or doing research on human rights abuses in the transgender community.
I felt like a sponge and I absorbed every bit of knowledge and advice that I heard. I discovered new fields inside the legal profession and I have grown both academically and personally from having been exposed to so many different and wonderful experiences.
This internship has given me the courage to take on new challenges and not be afraid of not having enough skills to handle them. I will learn them. We are all here to learn and nothing is more exciting than stepping into a challenge and coming out on the other side with the feeling of accomplishment!