The program, which sees one high-achieving CDU Bachelor of Law student selected to travel to Harvard each year, is now in its fifth year. It represents an exceptional opportunity for CDU Law students to develop their migration law knowledge and skills, while working and studying at one of the most elite Law Schools in the world.
Paul Larder was selected for the prestigious four-week placement in 2017. Here’s his story.
Why did you apply for the HIRC Internship?
I’ve always had a strong interest in refugee law and international law, which developed when I was working in social policy and through my academic experience at CDU.
The prospect of interning at Harvard Law School was too good to ignore; to be able to develop a solid understanding of US immigration law, to work first hand within a clinic which does such good work for the most vulnerable people – it was the chance of a lifetime!
It was a huge honour to be chosen to represent CDU at Harvard, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which I will be grateful of for the rest of my life.
What did you do when you first arrived in Boston? Do you remember your first day at the Clinic?
I stayed in an AirBNB in Cambridge. Cambridge is an expensive place to live, but for me, staying here made the most sense - it was just a ten minute walk from my bedroom to Harvard Law School, and a five minute walk to the shops, bus and train stations.
I was very excited on my first day. I'd arrived in Boston the day earlier, and I spent the day exploring the campus. I was introduced to all the professors, staff and fellow interns I'd be working with at the clinic. After a whirlwind day of setting up my student email, getting access to the computer systems, and acquiring my campus ID, it all started to kick in! That afternoon I was given my first list of projects, which ranged from casework, administration and policy projects.
Paul in Downtown Boston
What are some of the projects you worked on?
I worked on many great projects and attended many client interviews and court sessions during my time at Harvard.
My most interesting – and one of the most emotional – client interviews, was held in the basement of a local restaurant, where the asylum seeker told us his harrowing story of how he came to be in the United States.
Other types of work included:
- Researching whether it would be safe for a client who'd just received asylum in the US, to return to her country of original to visit family. My research deduced that it wasn't safe, and thus she was advised not to take the risk.
- Attending a Sanctuary City Steering Committee, where I was able to listen to city officials and interested organisations and government agencies discuss how better to assist 'at risk' people in the community.
Various visits to the Immigration Court in downtown Boston, where we had the chance to meet the Judge and ask her any questions we might have.
A particular highlight of the internship was visiting the Immigration Court and getting to meet and chat with the Judge, who was incredibly 'human-focused' in her approach.
It was very inspiring.
Harvard Law School
What are your top tips and hints for future interns?
- Be prepared, and be organised: There is a substantial amount of work and a short time to do it in. I found that the best way to manage the projects was to break each task down with its individual requirements and create a checklist on the computer.
- Keep a notebook: Write everything down. You are going to need to learn a lot very quickly. Write everything down, so you can refer back to it. You are also going to need to record a number of passwords, login details and phone numbers, so having them all at your disposal in this book will help.
- Get familiar with the law: I did not know substantive amount about US law. There were some excellent resources provided by the professors prior to the placement. This gave a great overview of Immigration Law – however that law is complex with many parts – case law and legislation – and multiple departments. There isn’t time to be taught what different things are. You are going to need to research it yourself.
- Give gifts: The staff at HIRC do an amazing job in organising to get CDU students involved in this program. It’s important to show your appreciation. I shopped for a number of souvenirs before I left Australia; they were Australian specific and went down very well at the end of the internship. You will receive a gift at the end of your internship as well, so it is nice to be able to return that favour. Further, I bought some small Australian memorabilia for my fellow interns. The connections and networks you make on this program will last a lifetime, but in addition to that, chances are that you'll make some great friends throughout the internship as well.
- Socialise: Get to know your fellow interns! They are great people from interesting and diverse backgrounds, who are interested in refugee and immigration law, just like you. Talk, be social, and learn about each other’s backgrounds, cultures, interests and lives. Enjoy lunch together in Harvard Square, and have the occasional beer down at Cambridge Common or John Harvard’s pub. Being personal definitely enhances the experience!
- Enjoy your time: It’s not all work, no play, and while there you should make the most of it. Boston itself is an absolutely stunning city, so go downtown – the Freedom Trail is a great way to see the city and learn its history at the same time. Make sure to go and see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park, it’s fantastic fun.
The Boston Skyline
- Close to Boston, there are many fantastic towns and cities worth visiting. In one weekend, I managed to visit Salem (home of the Salem witch trails!) on the Saturday, and Providence, Rhode Island on the Sunday. Providence was a simply gorgeous city and steeped in its own fascinating history. A visit to another Ivy League school, Brown University, is definitely a must while in Providence. On my second weekend I trekked down to New York City and spent the weekend in Manhattan sightseeing, and managed to catch Chicago on Broadway. I would definitely recommend a weekend trip to the ‘Big Apple’ if you haven’t been!
Any last words?
What stood out for me is how much passion for social justice and equality drives the HIRC staff do what they do every single day. As someone with a long time passion for social equality, it was inspiring for me to be surrounded by such progressive thinking.