Internship with Esperanza Immigration Legal Services
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Natalia Ruggiero

Paterno Fellow
Major: Criminology and International Politics
Minor: Italian
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned of this internship through a Paralegal I worked with at my previous internship. She knew I was interested in immigration law and so she put me into contact with the Executive Director of legal services at Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS). From there, I sent her my resume and a cover letter and interviewed in May, at the end of finals week.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

One of the best aspects about my summer internship was the change in daily routine. Every day at EILS encompassed new clients, different cases, and interesting research questions. My main task was to fill, complete, and mail immigration forms (such as naturalization and DACA applications) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, known as USCIS. To do so, I met with new clients to make sure they qualified for our services and then asked them a variety of questions pertaining to their specific cases. Being located in North Philadelphia, most of our clients were Hispanic. Therefore, the majority of my work depended on my bilingual skills, and I interpreted and translated just about every day in the office. Other noteworthy tasks included researching immigration questions, acting as an interpreter at a naturalization interview, screening clients, registering new citizens to vote at a naturalization ceremony, attending an immigration press conference with the mayor of Philadelphia, and communicating with court systems to obtain necessary documents.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience impacted me academically because it reassured me that this is the field I would like to continue with in the future. I have always been interested in the legal field and as a pre-law student, have taken courses at Penn State relating to my interest in law. It was amazing to actually experience working in the field, at a non-profit. Interning with EILS also helped me with balancing work and deadlines, which is obviously important to maintain during the academic year. EILS also taught me the importance of networking and staying in contact with other co-workers.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

This internship experience instilled the confidence that I needed before beginning the law school application process.

My current plan after graduation is to attend law school. I aspire to be an immigration attorney working in a major city. This internship experience instilled the confidence that I needed before beginning the law school application process. I learned that it is truly a field that I enjoy working in and that I have the necessary skills and traits that will help me in the field. I also was able to improve my writing and my Spanish speaking and interpretation through my daily tasks at EILS.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students, specifically those interested in law and immigration. The staff at EILS was very willing to teach me and get me up-to-date on new immigration bills. Also, I believe everyone should experience what it is like to work at a nonprofit. The staff is very passionate about what they do and are always very willing to help their clients as much as possible.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program always encourages us, Penn State students, to strive for more and to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. I believe that through the program, I have gained more confidence in my academic performance to reach for high goals, such as attending for law school. Without being a part of the program, I do not think I would have pushed myself to apply and interview with such a great organization.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.

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