From Neta: Global Studies at UNC, and a summer at the Legal Aid Society of New York City
The opportunity to apply to the Rotary Peace Fellowship was revealed to me at a point in life when I needed it the most. In April 2020, the global pandemic had drastically changed my everyday life. Certainty and stability seemed like a distant memory. As an attorney who mainly represented migrants with low income who had no state support to rely on, I was constantly reminded how the things I never had to struggle for, such as access to medical care, housing, and social benefits, are not available for everyone, not in the world and not in my country.
I was thrilled when I found out I was accepted for the program and was granted the opportunity to be a part of an ambitious group of experienced and curious students at Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. My interest in elevating my skills and experience to policy-oriented advocacy work led me to choose the Global Studies master’s program. As a Global Studies MA student, I got the opportunity to learn about issues that I was always interested in, like nationalism, racism, inequality, migration, and the linkages between them, on a global scale. While walking into a new space is always tricky, the faculty and my peers in the program quickly made me feel welcomed and valued, and by the second semester, I was able to start compiling a research proposal for my MA thesis.
With the guidance of my advisor Professor Jonathan Weiler, and other Global Studies faculty, I will dedicate the following year to researching Israel’s policy on non-citizens’ victims of domestic abuse. I chose to focus on this issue as it is incredibly under-researched and affects the life of dozens of vulnerable women and children every year.
When I started to look for an internship to complete the AFE part of the fellowship, I knew I wanted to do something that would support my research and give me another perspective. In addition, I knew that I wanted to be a part of a prominent NGO where I could experience a combination of the down-to-earth, sometimes Sisyphean work of defending individuals from violations of their legal rights and a large-scale vision of radical change. Luckily, I found the perfect fit, working as a summer intern with the Legal-Aid Society’s migration unit in New York City. LAS provides legal counsel to low-income city residents in various fields like criminal defense, housing, family law, and migration. And I am honored to have the opportunity to learn from their expertise and contribute to the uncompromising struggle for vulnerable individuals and communities.
Finally, in the past year, I also got an opportunity to take on an intensive Arabic class! I enjoyed it so much that despite the massive workload it required, I decided to continue and even register for the next semester. Yes, I know it is weird to come from the middle east and learn Arabic in the US, but this is one of the most amazing things that the Rotary Peace Fellowship has done for me. For the first time in my life, I can focus on studying exclusively instead of juggling between work and school. Learning a language is as difficult as it is rewarding (this is the mantra I repeated while doing my daily homework), and it is a privilege I am so grateful to have. I know the experiences, knowledge, and meaningful social connections I gained this past year will have an ever-lasting effect on my future, and I am more than excited to see where this road leads next.