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UK Law Student Lands UN Internship in Ethiopia

February 17, 2017

Lesley Nash, a dual degree student at the University of Kentucky College of Law and Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, recently took a leave of absence from school, packed up everything she owned, and made arrangements to move halfway across the world for an extraordinary opportunity with the United Nations (UN) Internship Programme.

The rising second-year law student landed a six-month internship with UNOHCHR-EARO, the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, East African Regional Office, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She submitted her application in late August and woke up on Thanksgiving morning to an email saying she had been shortlisted. She had a single phone interview one week later (at 6:30 a.m. EST – Ethiopia is eight hours ahead) and received an official offer on December 23.

Nash entered the JD/MA dual degree program during the 2015-16 academic year. She completed her first year of law school last spring and spent last fall taking classes at the Patterson School.

“I actually chose the JD/MA dual degree program at UK hoping to be able to work in this field – international human rights – banking on the combination of thematic education from the master's program and the legal background from the Juris Doctor degree to help me get a job,” said Nash. “It's certainly interesting, going from a JD program to a MA in Diplomacy, but I think it's a good combination.”

The UNOHCHR-EARO in Addis Ababa provides support and capacity building aid to human rights projects and policies to improve the human rights situation in the East African region. Since her arrival, Nash has been heavily involved in some thrilling projects. She is one of two interns and although they split the workload, they both take projects from every Human Rights Officer in the office. A typical day may include general desk research, support for event planning, background for reports, or attendance at meetings with other groups. Even though it’s only been three weeks since she arrived in Ethiopia, Nash is enjoying diverse experiences, interesting stories and incredible coffee.

When asked what advice she would give to other students seeking internships, she responded, “I suppose the lesson I learned is that, even if you're completely certain you're never going to get the job, if you're interested you should apply anyway. And be flexible and open, particularly if you're interested in international postings. You might end up working halfway across the world on three-week’s notice.” 

Nash is scheduled to return to the U.S. in late July and will be back at UK in the fall to finish her master’s at the Patterson School. After that, it’s back to law school. Looking to the future, Nash would love to return to the UN, or move laterally to work in one of the more watchdog agencies such as Transparency International or Amnesty.

“At this point, I'm mostly trying to get as much from each opportunity as I can, and keep an open mind moving forward.”