Her Career is a series of articles dedicated to the career development of Northwestern women. We talk to recent graduates or current students to get the best advice for those who have interests in similar fields.
Ary Hansen, a senior, has not only been involved with student groups, but she has also conducted research with a professor and studied in Bangkok, Thailand while at Northwestern. Ary’s past internships include working for World Relief Chicago and the National Immigrant Justice Center among other places. Her past experiences, coursework and time at Northwestern have influenced her dream to work in immigrant and refugee reform. Keep reading to learn how she does it all!
1. What did you study at Northwestern? How has your coursework helped you advance your career?
I’m majoring in Political Science, with minors in French and International Studies. On one level, each has helped me by expanding my worldview. Studying different languages, cultures and systems of governance has given me invaluable background for every relevant work experience I’ve had. On a more tangible level, those departments have led me to skills and opportunities. Through the Political Science department, I conducted research on deportation with a professor, and in a seminar wrote a long research paper on the Common European Asylum System. My French skills allowed me to work with French-speaking asylum seekers, and in a course I took for International Studies, with Professor Galya Ruffer, we assembled research in support of real asylum cases. I later interned with the Center for Forced Migration Studies, which she directs.
2. What organizations are you involved in on and off campus?
On campus, I’m involved with NU Active Minds, a mental health awareness and advocacy organization. I am also part of the Thai Club and have been involved with NUMUN, Northwestern’s Model UN conference for high school students. Outside of campus, I just started fostering cats for Tree House Humane Society, which my cat lady self is very excited about.
3. Over the summer you interned at the National Immigrant Justice Center, how was that experience?
My time with NIJC was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I actually really miss it and keep finding reasons to go visit my coworkers. As an intern, I conducted intakes, which are two-hour interviews to get the client’s full story, and filled out asylum applications, work applications and drafted client affidavits. I know it’s cheesy to say, but the people make the place. My clients were incredible people, and my coworkers and supervisors always worked to make my internship a learning experience. I like to challenge myself, so they gave me real responsibilities that took me out of my comfort zone. But they were also hugely supportive – which is very necessary when working with survivors of persecution and trauma. They would always check in with me to make sure I wasn’t overwhelmed.
4. What opportunities are you looking for after graduating this year? And what are some tips you can offer to go about looking for them?
Post-graduation, I’d either like to complete an international fellowship or work for a nonprofit organization. Ultimately, I want to work in public interest, and in my time at Northwestern I’ve focused on immigrant and refugee rights. So far, my best tip would be to keep an open mind. In my view, there isn’t any one path that fits all. Instead of resorting to your default, consider opportunities that are out of your comfort zone. At best, you’ll discover a real passion, and at worst, you’ll still have grown as a person and a professional. Does that sound overly idealistic? It probably does, but in my experience it’s held true!
5. What advice do you have for Northwestern students who are interested in political science, non-profit organizations and global issues?
Don’t just let opportunities come your way – go out and pursue them! I used to get discouraged because nonprofits don’t tend to be well represented at the usual recruiting channels (career fairs, info sessions, and the like). So email that professor whose research interests you. Ask people you admire for advice. Send a follow-up email to that organization you want to intern with. Then, when you don’t get a response, do a follow-up call. I’m not saying I’ve done that, but I might have. And it might have worked. The paths to these careers aren’t always clear-cut, but you can always make your own!