This summer, I’m working in the campaigns department for the Human Rights Watch. Participating in this program isn’t always easy, but nothing that pushes you out of your comfort zone should be easy. Being a Karel Fellow and campaigns intern for the Human Rights Watch has been such a rewarding experience professionally and personally. Thankfully, working in the campaigns department means that not every day is the same, which always keeps things exciting. After all, we are the best department (sorry, Qing Yu).

Going into this program, my initial thoughts were that I was ultimately setting myself up for failure. I knew the Karel Fellowship would help prepare me and match me with an incredible organization, but knowing this information only fueled my imposter syndrome. Being a first-generation student, a blueprint does not exist for students like me. I genuinely didn’t have a clue as to what I was getting myself into. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to make an impact. I’ve been a victim to the struggles that Latinx, first-gen, and LGBTQ+ people face throughout the course of their lives. But there was work to be done and suddenly I found myself playing the most impactful role I’ve had to date. Coming to terms with my imposter syndrome was when I realized that I am now the one making the blueprint, which has fueled my drive ever since.

Being able to work on international campaigns like #WelcomeToCanada, #AthletesAgainstAbuse, and #EqualityActJapan has been an incredibly rewarding and impactful experience. Although these three campaigns have played a tremendous role throughout my fellowship, the most noteworthy part of my experience to date has been to help co-create a list of potential influencers for the Human Rights Watch. As anyone would, I added my favorite creators and artists onto the list, among others that would appeal to a more universal audience. After submitting it for feedback, I found that many of my personal favorites had been discarded. However,  this isn’t something that I view negatively. It actually granted me a change of perspective. What we do here at HRW is never for personal gain. Everything done here is for the greater good.

It’s been almost a month since the start of my Karel journey and I honestly, in the best way possible, didn’t expect to feel how I currently do. At times, I feel like I am in the splash zone for the entirety of my shift, just soaking up all the knowledge I possibly can. Other times, I’ve found myself laughing for minutes on end because the campaigns team discovered an auditorium-style feature for our Microsoft Teams call. I truly do learn something new every day.

Looking back at my first few weeks as a Karel Fellow and as an HRW Intern, it’s safe to say that it’s truly been a ride. Meetings on end, projects on top of projects, guaranteed laughs in every meeting, and all with some of the greatest mentors I’ve had the privilege of having. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world because there is simply nothing worth as much. And to the future Karel Fellow that’s debating on applying, I can’t wait to see your blueprint.