Justin Romer is a sophomore at IU pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a minor in creative writing. Justin is passionate about social movements and international advocacy, which can be seen through his academic concentration in Human Rights and International Law. On campus, Justin has experience advocating for Green Initiatives through his involvement in Students for a New Green World. Alongside this, his experience in Hutton Honors Council Association—where he helps plan campus-wide events— has further helped him with community engagement and outreach at IU.
As a political affairs intern for the Borgen Project, Justin lobbied six members of Congress to pass bills promoted by the Borgen Project such as the Keeping Girls in School Act and the Global Health and Security Act. Furthermore, he was required to fundraise over $500 for the organization as well as launching a social media campaign to educate people on the Borgen Project.
How did this experience impact you personally and professionally?
“This internship was my first true professional experience and thus many of the situations I was in were brand new to me. From this position, I have fine-tuned my professional writing and communication skills and I now feel fully prepared to interact in a true workplace. The fact that the internship was virtual led to me being more adaptable and more technologically savvy. In a world that is quickly shifting more and more online, these skills will be imperative for future successes. Lastly, my many meetings with my representatives in Congress aided in me developing my public speaking skills and mitigating the general nerves that come along with important meetings.”
What were some of the most rewarding parts of this experience?
“During the three months I was interning with the Borgen Project I had six meetings with members of The United States Congress. These meetings were an incredible chance to get into the ear of people who have massive influence in public policy. I was able to express to them how my personal experiences have led me to The Borgen Project and why I care about the bills they advocate for. These meetings were by far the most rewarding portion of my position. After my meeting with Senator Rob Portman, I received an email from his office informing me that he had decided to co-sponsor the bill I was advocating for. Having that sort of direct impact on the legislative process was a feeling I’d never had before but hopefully will again.”
What did you learn about the industry?
“The most important thing I learned about the industry and something I find quite interesting is how important personal anecdotes are in the legislative process. In our training at The Borgen Project, they spent a lot of time emphasizing to us that we find ways to connect with the people we meet and push our advocacy through that connection. Whether that be talking about how the bills will impact us personally or reasons why we are so passionate about what we advocate for. These types of conversations have a much larger impact than a formulaic email or brief phone call to the Congressmen’s offices. Knowing this now will greatly benefit me in my future endeavors.”
What do you wish you would have known before you started this position? Or what would you tell others before they start an internship?
“Going into this internship I was unsure what to expect as I’d never before had an internship, worked for a non-profit, nor had any sort of virtual position. In many ways, I went into the experience blind. Looking back after completing my time there I wish I had known how self-reliant I would have to be throughout the summer. I had a supervisor and went through an extensive orientation but in many ways I was on my own. I created my own schedule, tracked my own work, and set up my own meetings. For the most part, my supervisor was there merely to monitor my work and make sure I was staying on track. At times it was hard to motivate and keep myself focused as there are far more distractions working at home than in an office. I wish I could go back and make sure I spent extensive time establishing my personal schedule and stuck to it.”
What did receiving this Internship Scholarship mean to you?
“To put it plainly, without this scholarship I would not have been able to keep my position at The Borgen Project. At this point in my life I am almost entirely economically independent. Being in that position while in college can be, at times, incredibly trying. There are expenses that are impossible to foresee and I often find myself in positions where I must excuse myself from a situation or opportunity merely because I cannot afford it. This scholarship had a tremendous positive impact on my experience this summer. Because of it, I could accept a position at an organization that I was extremely passionate about which gave me incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I did not have to fret each week how I would afford groceries or pay rent. I expect that I will be reaping the benefits of this scholarship for years to come.”