I remember logging on to my online bank account and seeing my savings depleted after returning to Geneva from a trip to Amsterdam. I was the victim of fraud and for a minute second understood what it meant to have absolutely no financial resources. As I cried to my parents over an Internet call, I could not help but notice the irony of my situation. In that moment, I was technically below the poverty line as I had just lost a significant sum of money -- but still had the wealth of support from my parents and could rely on a functioning system of legal governance in the United States. I went to the ILO to gain a realistic perspective on global inequality and, in this context; I left with more than a theoretical understanding.
My research at the ILO focused on non-discrimination policy, specifically on reasonable accommodation in the workplace. I worked on creating an international publication for employers to guide their understanding of an inclusive work environment and emphasize the importance of diversity. My experience extended into researching best practices, creating case studies, analyzing national legislation, and, most importantly, empathizing with those marginalized in society. My intellectual bounds were extended as I learned about reasonable accommodation for persons with physical disabilities as well as for persons affected by HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, and persons with psychological afflictions.
I was thrilled to see my work extend beyond policy in the NGO-context and translate into an applicable guide aimed towards for-profit enterprises. This multi-sector approach initially drew me to a Credit Internship at the ILO and continues to frame my studies as I complete my final year at Cornell.
Because of the Credit Internship, I met numerous professionals and interns at the ILO; and through my personal travels around Europe, I met a diverse array of students and adults from different walks-of-life and different socio-economic situations. The inequality that I have seen with my own eyes has been internalized and, as a result, I have decided that upon graduation, I hope to dedicate a career to eliminating the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’
In terms of observing inequality, the most memorable moment was during my visit to the Louvre where I saw a homeless man with a physical disability begging for money. I was shocked to see the juxtaposition of the Louvre’s wealth contrasted by the homeless man’s poverty. This experience has driven a reality into me that I would have otherwise not seen.
From this experience, I am walking away with the understanding that the world is complex and, comparatively, my material concerns are minuscule. I learned, first hand, how people are struggling and fighting for a subsistent wage, the right to organize, and protections against discrimination. My internship has been an eye-opening experience and I am humbled and thankful for the opportunity to work alongside and interact with the best minds. I hope to return to this world stage, one day, and continue to make a positive impact to better and improve the lives of others.
The opportunity to travel to and work in another country has been incredible. Throughout my undergraduate career, many professors and advisors have suggested that I include an international experience as part of my education. As an immigrant with a familial background strongly rooted in another culture, I thought that I already had a worldly perspective. However, living and working on my own in a country where I could not fluently speak the language has allowed me to grow as a person and gain independence.
- Ananya Hindupur, BSILR'15