Since I began my studies at Cornell, I knew that if given the opportunity, I would love to study abroad. I sought an experience that would be eye opening, insightful and allow me to explore the world as much as possible. With that goal in mind, I chose to forgo a typical study abroad program and instead chose the ILR Credit Internship Program, accepting a position at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. I could not be more pleased with this decision as my internship allowed me to perform meaningful work for a prestigious international organization, while also allowing me to explore all of Europe and learn about its different cultures. Contrary to a typical study abroad program taking place in a classroom setting, this internship allowed me to contribute to an important international cause while also vastly developing many of my workplace skills.
Specifically, I worked for the Disability Team of the Skills & Employability Office, part of the ILO’s Employment Sector. While my background in ILR certainly prepared me for many aspects of the work I performed, particularly topics relating to discrimination and employment, almost all of my practical knowledge was gained through the work I completed throughout the semester. Through this work, I gained vast amounts of knowledge on disability inclusion as a whole, with specific regard to different international policies, countries’ legislation and universal human rights. As part of my work, I researched international policies, programs, and services related to the employment of persons with disabilities in order to create country profiles as part of an overarching ILO benchmarking initiative. In addition, I also developed fact sheets on disability inclusion programs and legislation in China, Indonesia, Zambia, Vietnam and Ethiopia. Both of these projects allowed me to be in close contact with ILO representatives from each of these countries. This provided an enlightening experience, as I was able to learn about each country’s culture, while also examining the success of the disability movement within that country. Finally, I provided several statistical reports based on the ratification on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While I was performing this work, a bill for the U.S. to adopt this Convention was actually voted on in the U.S. Senate and received massive media attention, which made my work even more gratifying.
I was able to travel almost every weekend this semester, including to cities such as London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Milan, Spain, as well as many other cities within Switzerland itself. I was able to learn about many of Europe’s cultures, while having an inordinate amount of fun in the process. I consider myself truly privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in ILR’s Credit Internship this fall and I cannot wait to go back to Europe.
- Jeffrey Baker