2019 Fellowship: Human Rights Watch, Environment and Human Rights Division

Isaac Gazendam 

What year are you in?

Which organization did you work for, and in which city and country?
Human Rights Watch (HRW), Environment and Human Rights Division (EHR) in New York City, United States

What were the highlights of your fellowship?
I enjoyed the variety of projects and opportunities to work with a diverse and dedicated team who are passionate about human rights and the environment. I worked on a major report throughout the summer, but I was consistently tapped for smaller projects, which allowed me to hone different research skills and gain substantive knowledge in a variety of subject areas. Also, the fact that my work was used directly in HRW reports was gratifying. Not to mention that working in the Empire State Building was pretty neat!

Isaac and a colleague on top of the Empire State Building, where Human Rights Watch is headquartered.
Isaac and his colleague on top of work, the observatory deck at the Empire State Building. Credit: Mary Kate Gazendam.

What were some of the challenges that you faced this summer?
Working under a supervisor based in a different time-zone could sometimes be challenging, but it was certainly not insurmountable. Honestly, the biggest challenge was dealing with the New York City summer heat in an apartment without air conditioning. That, and not being able to partake in the city’s incredible food scene because I had just had jaw surgery. 

What were some of your first impressions of the country/city where you completed your fellowship? How/Did these impressions change over time?
New York is huge! While it seemed just as humongous over the summer, I came to recognize and love the smaller communities within the city, and could understand how New Yorkers identify so strongly with their neighbourhoods as home. Otherwise, I left the city loving it even more than when I arrived. It was invigorating to be part of such a vibrant, diverse community.

Share anything interesting about your experience.
In 2019, New York City was hosted World Pride and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Marching with HRW in the Pride Parade during the biggest LGBTQ+ events in history was an amazing experience!

What advice do you have for students hoping to be an IHRP fellow next year?
Start looking early and don’t be afraid to search for something outside of the suggested organizations if it fits your interests perfectly. And reach out for help in networking! To me, EHR at HRW was a dream, but with a little networking and a lot of persistence, it came true! Also, do it! The IHRP fellowship is an unparalleled experience that allows you to grow personally and professionally, so take full advantage.