Francesca posing in front of cherry blossom treesFrancesca Nevil
International Law & Organizations

April 8th, 2019 | As the sun has reemerged over the past few weeks, the people of DC seem to have come out from wherever they have been hiding to stay warm from the forbidding weather over the past few months. It’s as if DC is a wholly new city in the Spring overflowing with throngs of people! Walking around along the Waterfront and National Mall this past weekend, I was subdued by the realization that the blooming cherry blossoms really do live up as an unapologetic symbol of this beautiful new season, giving rise to an irrepressible sensation of joy and hope that was truly tangible when walking through the Kite Festival. It is also exceedingly timely as we come to the end of our semester in DC and are considering and acting on our next steps; there is this new-found energy to go get 'em!

Francesca with a friend at a Washington Nationals baseball gameThere have been many enjoyable adventures that I’ve found myself on in the past few weeks including a St. Patrick’s Day hike in the Shenandoah State Park with some of the interns for my organization, a showing and discussion of the film The Hate U Give, downtown hosted by a local unity and justice organization, a Mets vs Nationals baseball game with some WSP students, a local SoFar concert that a friend and I were so lucky to score tickets to in Bethesda, an awesome event at the US Institute of Peace where we listened to the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament discuss the next steps moving forward towards reconstruction, post-ISIS, and an encouraging informational interview for one of my dream jobs in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in People at the State Department!

Fracesca hiking in Shenandoah State Park with fellow internsIn contrast to all of these exciting activities, my internship is winding down- there’s less than two weeks left! It has been remarkable to be a part of an organization that fights impunity and injustice every day on such a widespread level with so much tangible success, seen in the lives of those rescued from trafficking, but even more so in the lives of those that are becoming exceedingly protected from being at risk of dangerous, unjust situations. To have the privilege to be a small part of a team with a sustainable theory of change, that partners with local communities to reform their criminal justice system to better prosecute criminals who abuse their power to oppress others, to restore victims and ultimately end the cycles of poverty and violence by equipping local leaders through justice system transformation, has been an indescribable experience.

Francesca with friendWhen I look back on some of these past blog posts and the accumulation of photos throughout the past semester I can’t help but feel this out of body experience, this almost disbelief that all of this actually happened, and in such a short period of time. This hit with a smirk of recognition that, “that’s just DC for you.” Everyone that I have gotten to know in the program has had a distinct experience, yet all of these exposures and encounters we’ve had could only have occurred here - in the hub of intellect, of drive, and passion for what people do. Never before have I been somewhere where so many people not only love their job but know that it is their vocation. Where they don’t get annoyed by the question, “so what do you do,” but light up and even look forward to talking about what they actually do, knowing that it so often really does make a difference in so many lives. It’s been inspiring being in this boundless environment, where people take their local and global citizenship so seriously and are constantly pursuing a deeper knowledge and understanding of self, others, and the world.

Blog History

Francesca at the Edmund Pettus BridgeFrancesca Nevil
International Law & Organizations

March 25th, 2019 | Over Spring Break this semester, I joined students from my home school, Gonzaga University, in Montgomery, Alabama on an alternative spring break: Mission Possible, where we committed to learning first hand of the constant battle for Racial Justice in the United States through our perilous history to the unjustness that persists in all sectors of society today.

Over the course of the past week, our group visited numerous historical sights and monuments like the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the 54-mile, 4-day march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights commenced. It was a flashback to the 60’s, as we followed in the footsteps of some of the most renowned and respected individuals in the world. We stepped inside of Martin Luther King Jr.’s home and the church where he preached. We stood on the very spot where Rosa Parks waited for the infamous bus, which she would enter and thereupon change the course of history.

The lynching memorial in Montgomery, AL.We met with many civil rights leaders to hear about their fight as youth, and how they have continued to wage the battle for voting rights and racial justice far into their geriatric years. That prevailing fire radiating through their eyes and hanging on the end of each word they used to describe their struggles and victories over the years; we sat down over dinner with elderly men and women who were central to the very efforts that we have all studied in our American history books throughout our primary education. It was a dream, to hear about their dreams, and realities.

Moreover, we visited the Southern Poverty Law Center, the District Attorney’s Office, and spoke with a public prosecutor about their current caseloads and how mass incarceration has become the new form of slavery in the United States of America.

A statue at the lynching memorial in Montgomery, AL.However, I think one of the most impactful moments of the trip was our visit to the lynching memorial in Montgomery. This space was erected to remember all of those whose lives were brutally and horrifically taken by violence and hate. It was an incredibly stoic, sacred, and eerie visit, and I don’t think I will ever forget the images in in my mind and the gut-wrenching sensation in my stomach. Seeing the names of the thousands of individuals etched on hanging stones, which began at eye level and gradually elevated hanging in the air, as I proceeded to walk through the memorial until they were dangling above my head. It was harrowingly indescribable. And something I hope, each and every one of you reading will have the same privilege of experiencing.

Francesca with her teamThe Equal Justice Initiative, under Bryan Stevenson, established this memorial last year. I had learned about Bryan Stevenson last semester when I read his book, Just Mercy. The anecdotes he recounted opened my eyes to the magnitude and severity of the challenges that the death penalty and mass incarceration pose, especially in the South, and which vastly disproportionally effects people of color. If you haven’t had a chance to read if yet, I would highly recommend it along with the documentary The 13th and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

My Spring Break wasn’t especially relaxing, nor filled with much amusement or pleasure. But it was important and filled me that same fire and fervor that I saw in the eyes and hearts of each one of those civil rights and racial justice activists that I had the honor to meet this week.

Francesca with friends in historic GeorgetownFrancesca Nevil
International Law & Organizations

March 13th, 2019 | As we approach Spring Break, I’m blown away at the realization that we are half-way through the semester. I only have six weeks left at my dream internship and only a couple more months in the capitol to take advantage of all that it has to offer. It’s crazy how time has just run away from us, but I don’t think the weather has quite taken the hint yet.

The highlight of my time here in DC has without a doubt been my internship at IJM. One of the components that I have truly appreciated is the personal support and individualized investment in career and character development that they have committed to each of us. To give you an idea of what this look like, I meet weekly with a mentor within the organization who has become somewhat of a “life- coach” to discuss school, career paths, community, faith, and everything in between. Additionally, once or twice a week, the interns have lunch with a different Director or VP on the leadership team at IJM to hear about their position, career journey, and to help break down the social-spatial barriers between the interns and major decision makers/leaders in order to help create a more welcoming, open culture within the organization. These examples, and so many more, have proven to be FANTASTIC opportunities to learn more about the development of the organization and has also helped me to become aware to the multitude of differing educational, career, and life paths that led these professionals to their positions today. We even had the privilege and honor of sitting down for lunch with our CEO, Gary Haugen, a few weeks ago, where he shared the intimate details about his vision, struggles with the inception of the organization, and invited us all to dinner with him and his wife!

The Georgetown waterfrontFrancesca Nevil
I have been encouraged, left and right, since I arrived in DC to organize informational meetings and coffee dates with professionals who hold positions that are of interest to me and to learn about the journeys that have led them to where they are today. This has been fascinating and compelling; I have learned from so many incredibly interesting individuals about their impressive lives and careers. Additionally, my community at IJM, especially with the other interns, has become so dear to me. We are frequently going over to one another’s houses after work to make dinner, having board game night in local pubs, or beginning new traditions like “New Food Fridays” out on the town!

Another community that has become truly valuable to me during my time in DC is a small group of ladies that I joined through the church that I have been attending here in the city. It’s been delightful to make connections and be a part of the larger DC community outside of my WSP and IJM circles. Learning about their differing living and work environments and having the opportunity to share life with people detached from these two dominant spheres of my life right now, has been truly refreshing.

There are limitless opportunities in DC. Within the big city there are countless communities to delve into and I’ve found it immensely entertaining to wander through the neighborhoods to get a little taste of each. I think one of the most enjoyable weekend activities has been simply walking all over the city to see what I can run into. One day I walked almost three hours from Columbia Heights back to Tenleytown, meandering through so many different neighborhoods. This has proven a great way to get to know new areas that I didn’t even know existed.

Francesca with fellow WSP'ers at an Italian Embassy galaFrancesca Nevil
International Law & Organizations

February 25, 2019 | This first month in DC has past by in the blink of an eye. To date, I feel like I have finally gotten into a good routine with school, my internship and adventuring…or at least attempting to! Since I’ve arrived there have been some really exciting outings, that just make me think to myself… “only when in DC,” such as attending The Valentine’s Day Gala at the Italian Embassy or taking part in the Chinese Lunar New Year parade and festivities. There have been numerous opportunities to learn about new cultures, traditions, histories, and to just meet some genuinely interesting people.

Through all of this, I think the coolest part about being in the Capitol is, simply put, all of the opportunities to learn and expand my knowledge. The other day, my International Peace and Security class went to a Symposium on the Legal Effects of Environmental Destruction on Human Rights and Global Migration. There we listened to a panel of experts from the World Bank, World Food Program, as well as Environmental Lawyers and Human Rights Professors - it was so interesting! Not to mention the COUNTLESS museums to visit - recently I’ve had the opportunity to go to the Natural History Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Air and Space Museum, among others.

Washington, DC's historic Chinatown neighborhoodMy classes have done such a great job taking advantage of the resources that are geographically sitting at our fingertips here - like inviting the Ambassador from Mali into class to discuss the state of their nation, development, and current events in Mali. Another class highlight was Skyping in a socio-political Palestinian leader currently advocating for Palestinian rights in Ramallah. I have learned so much just from listening to the stories of so many differing perspectives.

On another note, I was recently featured on the WSP Instagram (@WSPIntern). So, if you haven’t had an opportunity to check it out, make sure you do!

Francesca with coworkers at her internship site.If you did see it, then you may have seen the photos of myself and fellow IJM interns at the US Capitol building, participating in the End It Movement. My internship organization, International Justice Mission had an awesome opportunity to partner with this movement and thousands of others across the world to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking and goal to end Modern Day Slavery in our lifetime. The End It Movement is a coalition of the leading organizations in the world in the fight for freedom. Each coalition partner is doing work to bring awareness, prevention, prosecution, rescue and restoration. On this day, February 7th, we were joined by Students, Senators, Celebrities, Nonprofits and Fortune 500’s. End It is each of us standing for what’s right, until the number of men, women and children suffering in silence is brought from 40 million to zero. You can read more about it at or

An exciting event in downtown DCThere are so many incredibly good causes to support, and my awareness of the abundance of these causes has expanded tenfold, here in the center of it all. I’ve learned that one person simply can’t in their capacity stand for them all, but the chance to be an ally and to live with open ears and eyes, willing to listen and learn has been a good approach, as I discover just what those causes are that I do feel called to invest my time, energy, and heart into.

Washington Semester student Francesca Nevil with friendsFrancesca Nevil
International Law & Organizations

February 13, 2019 | Hello! My name is Francesca Nevil, I am a Junior from Gonzaga University in Washington State where I am pursuing majors in International Relations and Sociology with minors in Social Justice & Solidarity and Comprehensive Leadership. While in DC this Spring, I will be participating in the Washington Semester Program through American University in the International Law and Organizations Concentration.

I am originally from Wenatchee, Washington, a city situated in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range where I fell in love with nature and learned the importance and beauty of community and service. I LOVE my local valley, but I also LOVE traveling the world, growing and learning new things. Moreover, I love to read, watch movies, try new foods, listen to live music and explore. Over the years I have had the opportunity to live and study abroad on a variety of occasions, most recently in Cali, Colombia where I spent the summer and fall semester prior to coming to DC. Thus, it has been a huge transition to DC lifestyle, and not just from 75 to 25-degree weather!

Statistics on womenI’m passionate about and have had extensive experience working with immigration issues, the refugee resettlement process, and anti-human trafficking efforts. So I am stoked for my new internship - working with International Justice Mission, the largest global organization combatting human trafficking and modern-day slavery. I have had a fabulous start at the office here in DC, been welcomed into my new team and leaped right into my role on the Strategic Partnership Team with much energy and excitement.

In the first few weeks here, I have loved getting to know my roommate, hall mates in McDowell, and other students in the WSP program. And even with the government shutdown and tumultuous weather (both of which have occurred since our arrival in DC) I have LOVED exploring the city. So far some of the highlights have been:

  • Visiting the Holocaust Museum, The Women in the Arts Museum and the Newseum
  • Attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade
  • Finding cute cafes like Kramerwood Books and Afterwards Café, Busboys and Poets, and Elle, as well as live music scenes like the Blues Alley of Jazz, Madam Organs and Songbyrd
  • Walking around Downtown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and Tenleytown
  • Attending an event at the Embassy of Bulgaria
  • Attending a midterm review at the State Department analyzing The Trump Administrations Policy in the Middle East
  • Getting to know and conquering the public transportation system

Washington Monument at sunsetEvery day I find myself adding countless recommendations to a list on my phone of “Things to do while in DC.” These next few months are going to fly by, and there is so much to see before then (especially once the weather warms up)!! I’m looking forward to this opportunity to share with you all my experiences this semester as I learn what it means to be a part of the DC community.