Terrorism, Coups d’etat, and “Brexits”

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I am spending the summer at the U.S. – European Media Hub in Brussels, Belgium. Coordinating with journalists and media outlets throughout Europe, the Hub assists in connecting U.S. policy makers with European journalists. Another important part of the Hub’s work is writing reports on what European news outlets have been reporting on, and relaying it to Washington so they have a clearer picture as to what is important to the European people in international affairs.

It has been a fascinating time to work at the Hub – walking past armed soldiers patrolling the streets of Brussels on one’s way to work is a blatant reminder of how tense Europe is today. This has made the work more important: Be it in the capacity of looking at how the French Newspapers have responded to the attack in Nice or what the English media predicts will happen in the United Kingdom following the “Brexit.” The job does have a lighter side though – like watching Ambassadors and prominent businesspersons from around the world attempt to eat hot dogs and french fries at our Fourth of July celebration (it certainly is not the most diplomatic meal).

My Boston College education has also had an impact on how I approach the summer. The opportunity to work at the Tri-Mission has lead to fascinating conversations and working experience with prominent U.S. policy makers.  My relationships with my Political Science professors at BC, experts in their field, has prepared me to best work with, but also gain insight from, such prominent people – and develop relationships similar to those I’ve made at BC.

Written by Thomas Hanley, BC Class of 2017

 

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“Reading Is A Really Cool Thing”

AGOMAMy first couple of weeks working as an intern at the Attorney General’s Office have certainly been a culture shock for me. While Boston College has prepared me for this experience, I think anyone stepping into a professional environment for the first time would experience a bit of a culture shock. That being said, I am glad that I have taken so many history classes at Boston College. A liberal arts education in general has proved invaluable. To paraphrase one of my idols, Jack Black, “reading is a really cool thing”.

I’m going to be frank: the amount of reading that I do as a history major can get fairly boring. However, when I was tasked with reading a full copy of a bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate, I was glad that I had grown accustomed to reading so much. The task was daunting because of the length of the bill and the unfamiliar “legalese”. Thankfully, I am accustomed to reading so much. Half of the difficulty of my task melted right away thanks to my time spent at Boston College.

This Bill was known as the “Zoning and Permitting Reform Bill”.  I work in the Municipal Law Unit in the Attorney General’s Office.  A lot of this department’s responsibility is to review zoning changes and within municipalities.  Therefore, the overhaul of the zoning and permitting laws in Massachusetts that had barely changed in the last 30 years would affect a lot of the work done by my bosses.  If the Bill were to pass, learning the changes to the law from a summary, rather than reading the bill, would be much easier and less time consuming.

Written by Jack Gilligan, BC Class of 2018

“Hey, hey, are you fourteen?” asked one of the friends for what seemed like the hundredth time.
“Nope I’m not fourteen. I’m twenty-one.” I answered for the hundredth time.

I work at a nonprofit organization called Milal and my responsibilities include supervising high school volunteers, assisting kids with disabilities with their needs, and teaching health education. We refer to them as “friends” as a friendly term to build rapport.

Upon my first day at work – Milal After School – I was ready and prepared to whip out my professional nursing skills that I have acquired for the past 3 years and apply them in this new environment. The first question I asked the teacher in charge of the after school program was “So what are the meds I have to give to these kids?” She looked puzzled and replied with a disappointing answer. She explained that I will not be touching any meds or even get close to their medical history. Right then, I realized that I had to shift my focus completely. I had projected my own expectations for this program and not been completely open minded to how I can be molded differently through this experience.

The following day the After School teacher and I brainstormed on ways to incorporate my college education into their program and we decided that I could teach them about health once a week. Once we established this, I was very excited to pass on the knowledge I have gathered from my Adult Health classes and clinicals.

The first lesson I taught was on hand hygiene. The class size was 7 Milal friends and 9 volunteers. We all happily sang “Happy Birthday” twice as we rubbed our hands in a circular motion. Throughout the lesson I hoped that they would really understand the importance behind such a simple task. Even though I couldn’t test their knowledge on the significance of hand washing, I knew the friends had learned the skills I taught them because I witnessed their demonstration of the proper hand washing technique in the bathroom.

This internship has definitely allowed me to explore a career interest that I haven’t considered before: health educator. Among many roles that nurses have to juggle, educator is a vital one. It entails assisting patients in gaining knowledge about their health and medication. And I have developed a small yet strong desire to perhaps educate the parents of those with disabilities to ensure accountability within the family.

One of my Milal friends persistently asks the same question to me. I suppress my annoyance at his inquiry and respond in a friendly manner the same answer. I’ve always wondered if he will ever break this habit. But his obedience to performing correct hand hygiene has allowed me to see hope in my investment in their lives. I want to help shape good habits that would positively affect their health.

Written by Cristine Oh, BC Class of 2017

Why Passive Civil Rights Strategies Aren’t Enough

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I have a peace sign tattooed on my wrist. When my friends get into fights, I mediate and do my best to diffuse the situation. But if there’s any life lesson I’ve brought away from my time at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, it’s that sometimes aggression is necessary in order to bring about lasting change. My sociology and international studies have focused on why conflicts between communities persist. In short, ruling powers control legal, economic and ethical values in order to maintain their power, whether I’m studying racial caste systems within the domestic or international populace, judicial systems have a passive, responsive role to historic hostility.

At the LCCR, I helped instruct small business clinics, answered the intake line, organized past, and present legal cases, and reached out to donors, educating them on how their funds were being allocated. These experiences gave me exposure to different types of law such as corporate, tax, intellectual property, civil and litigation. But I soon realized that despite the stresses of maintaining this organization, we were simply maintaining the status quo. We were the belated responders to an emergency crisis. Many callers were facing scary, dire or depleted living situations, and were denied simply because of distance, limited resources or lack of evidence.

I enjoyed working with passionate attorneys who value justice over higher income, but I realized how limited pro bono civil rights organizations can be. Taking on individual cases of discrimination are important, but scrutinizing the judicial system that enforces colorblind racism in America will bring about greater results. I know I want to pursue a law degree in order to protect myself from prosecution, but to also help deconstruct the mechanisms that implement the naturalization and minimization of contemporary racism.

Written by Tizzy Tiezazu, BC Class of 2017

Not Just Band-aids

bals1          Standing in an empty exam room, the doctor pulls up the next patient’s scan. He quickly pans through the slices, pointing out the obvious anomalies. Even as a lowly premed, it isn’t hard to appreciate the striking amount of deterioration present. Gone were the rolling curves and compacted ripples of gyri and sulci. Black, empty spaces take the place of normal tissue—his ventricles nearly double their normal size. Years of degeneration and atrophy are exceedingly apparent on this man’s MRI and the effects of insidious disease unmistakable.

          “This patient is a follow-up of mine. Late fifties. Initial MRI was relatively normal. Later imaging, neuropsychological testing, and clinical assessment suggest otherwise. Suspected FTD with primary progressive aphasia.” said the doctor.

          Despite being one of the most common causes of presenile dementia, individuals with frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) are often misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease or a psychiatric disorder. As one of Nevada’s few medical centers devoted solely to neurological diseases, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health frequently receives complex cases such as this one, and is often a last resort for many patients and families.

          These past four weeks in clinic, I had the opportunity to follow several neurologists of various sub-specialties and gain valuable insight into the fields of behavioral neurology, movement disorders, and neuroimmunology. From attending weekly Grand Rounds to watching doctors adjust the settings on a patient’s deep brain stimulator, there wasn’t a single day where I did not come home with a deeper understanding of neurological disorders or a new perspective on healthcare in America.

          Even so, the things that impressed upon me the most were not the scientific principles behind these diseases or their medications. One of the biggest lessons I came away with was that being a doctor doesn’t always mean ridding people of their illnesses or giving definite diagnoses. Being a doctor goes beyond frank “cures” and in such a field where there are often more questions than answers, compassionate care takes on many forms. Slowing down an inevitable disease process to give families more time with their loved ones may seem like mere bandaids over a gushing wound; to patients and their caregivers, however, such small comforts mean the world.

          My experiences as a summer intern have undoubtedly cemented my interest in neurology. While it may be premature to say that after six weeks of working with patients and following doctors that this is the field where I belong, this internship has absolutely made me even more passionate about studying the brain than when I began. Within the next few years I hope to use this passion to continue pursuing a career in medicine, with the definite goal of becoming a behavioral neurologist.

Written by Julia Bals, BC Class of 2017

A Change in Plans

The Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission (MHRC) is an organization that takes an interdisciplinary approach to violence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Going into this internship I was expecting to go into correctional facilities as an agent of the commission to talk to perpetrators and victims of violent crime; however, I hit a roadblock when we could not gain access per review of Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections. We thus had to resort to Plan B, which ended up being perhaps more influential in regards to my career interest than Plan A may have been.

Starting mid-early July, after a month or so of time shadowing MHRC Director Mallory O’Brien while she led homicide, sexual assault, and non-fatal shooting reviews – meetings which gave the commission their name and include a melting pot of professionals ranging from law enforcement, district attorneys, social workers, etc. – I began to shadow and interview other professionals in the Milwaukee area whose occupations, in one way or the other, have ties to violent crime. The list is long, but essential to my experience: assistant district attorney, district attorney/prosecutor, public defender, community liaison, probation and parole agent, Regional Chief of Wisconsin’s Divisions of Juvenile Corrections, and a Milwaukee police officer.

Dissecting different perspectives of violence in Milwaukee not only helped me better comprehend the criminal justice system in its chaos, but it also gave me personal introductions to what these professions entail, be it day-to-day tasks, general opinions toward contemporary issues, or even confidential gossip regarding department management.

My time spent with the public defender, a woman with a renowned reputation to fully and completely challenge her fellow prosecutors every time she steps in court, inspired me most. As of now, law school is now my ultimate goal post graduation.

Although I cannot reveal in detail what she told me during our time together (and I must admit she did not singe-handedly inspire me to seek a path in law, although she did play a large hand), her stories of the children and teenagers she defends who never had true opportunity in their life and have been or are currently being punished with time in Wisconsin’s now well-known corrupted facilities, was the shining moment of my internship. I would be honored to do the work she does.

Written by Jonathan Leuthner, BC Class of 2017

Looking Back at Project Citizenship

My time at Project Citizenship this summer was wonderful. Not only did I learn a lot of practical things about the immigration system and how to navigate it, I met a lot of great people and got to take on a wide variety of projects.

My favorite part of the summer was definitely interacting with all of our clients, whether it was to fill out their citizenship applications in person or to figure out what was happening with their submitted applications over the phone. Usually their questions were more basic, like where their appointment with USCIS was, but sometimes someone would call with a complicated legal question about their case. I grew to like those questions, not because I could answer them, but because I could relay the questions to the attorneys on staff and they’d teach me the answers. This process, which happened a lot over the summer, was part of the reason why I’ve started to re-consider a career in the legal field.

This internship also opened my eyes to how inaccessible our immigration system is to those who would obtain citizenship. There are very little resources available for those who are of low-income, who cannot speak English, and/or who do not possess a legal education. These three characteristics describe most of our clients. The hardest conversations with clients I had at this internship were when I had to tell them that they had to pay $680 out of pocket just to submit the application to USCIS, or when I had to tell them that they weren’t eligible to apply because they couldn’t speak English well enough. USCIS promises fee waivers, but those don’t apply to enough people, and are difficult to obtain. USCIS also promises that basic English is good enough, but the questions asked at interviews are often beyond that level, encompassing a wide range of topics such as medical history, immigration history, criminal background, and family matters. This system is difficult, and to my eyes, unnecessarily so. Recognizing that helped me to also recognize that I may be suited toward advocacy work, where I can not only help those who are currently going through broken systems, but also push for those systems to become better.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at Project Citizenship, and my time there taught me more about myself and what I may enjoy doing in the future as a career.

Written by Cristine Oh, BC Class of 2017