Zoe San Martin '24

Internship: American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) - Asia Division
Program: Summer Social Impact Internship (SSII) Fund
Concentration: School of Public and International Affairs with a certificate in Chinese Language & Culture

I wanted to intern at the Asia Division of ABA ROLI because my academic and career interests meet at the intersection of law and international policy, and I knew that working with ABA ROLI would give me an opportunity to further explore those interests. I also found ROLI’s mission to promote justice, economic opportunity, and human dignity through the rule of law compelling and wanted to contribute to an organization that I felt was doing meaningful work.

I found the internship and applied separately from Princeton, but during that application process I realized that the director of the Asia & Pacific Division was an alum from the SPIA Graduate School. I reached out to the alum, Irina Parhikova, through email and she ended up circulating my resume and letter of interest across the department. I was invited to an interview with the Asia Division shortly thereafter.

Within the Asia Division, I spent the vast majority of my time working on projects concerning women and children’s rights, anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing. Near the half-way mark of my internship, I was given responsibility over the analysis within and formalization of our upcoming donor reports. Interested in international policy, I found it fascinating to not only read, but even help create monitoring and evaluation reports for our on-going projects.

In communication with our international partners, I reached out to our offices and contacts overseas to exchange drafts of written work and pulled portions of the report together. This responsibility forced me to be extremely organized. Not only did I have to meet my own deadlines, I also had to stay in communication with others so that they met their deadlines as well and allowed for enough time in each stage of the process.

Responsible for this project, as well as the several others over the course of the summer, I gained an understanding of the importance of maintaining a holistic approach to work. Looking one day forward didn’t provide as much clarity - I needed to have a plan for what I would be working on weeks in advance.

This past summer, I really appreciated the opportunity to experience working in a collaborative, team-structured environment. Whenever I had questions or felt uncertain about how to move forward, I knew that I could rely on my team members to help me bridge the gap in my experience. The development of that mindset - one where I knew I didn’t have to have all the answers, I just needed to know who to reach out to help me get there - was a tremendous part of my personal growth over the span of those 12 weeks.

I can’t count the amount of times someone has told me that you shouldn’t try to know or do everything, but it’s hard to internalize that message until you’ve seen it in-person. In just the first week of my internship with ABA ROLI, I was thrown into a new vocabulary. Hearing and reading the terms AML, CTF (and sometimes CFT), NRA, FIA, SBP, etc., I had to come to terms with the fact that regardless of my prior knowledge and background there was a lot that I didn’t know and would need to work with other people to find out.

Facing the seemingly unscalable task before me, I had to consider what it was that I was trying to achieve. Should I really try to simply accumulate knowledge? Is that my goal? Or, should I maybe try to focus my energy on finding and exploring what truly matters to me? As someone who prides myself on the breadth and depth of my knowledge, that was a hard pill to swallow - but one that I ultimately believe has been good for me.

This internship has given me a chance to be introspective and consider not just what I can do or bring to the table, but what I can take away, what I can learn, and what I can enjoy. As much material knowledge as I’ve gained over the course of this internship, what I’ve found most rewarding is the experience.

If anything, this internship has only further reinforced my interests in international law and policy making. I find the nuances of law and policy fascinating and I appreciate the challenge that comes with addressing some of the world's most difficult, but necessary, questions.