Scot Summer Stories: Austrella Balley

Austrella handles about 5-7 cases at a time during her internship at Legal Services NYC.

In our final edition of Scot Summer Stories, we talk with Austrella Balley, a rising junior on the women's basketball team. Austrella is a interning for Pro Bono Legal Services of New York (NYC). She assists and observes attorneys as they find pathways to asylum and citizenship for various immigrants.  

Q: First off, give us an idea of what you're doing this summer as an intern for Pro Bono Legal Services of New York.

A: This summer I am interning with Legal Services NYC in the Pro Bono Immigration unit. I work under a network of four attorneys and one paralegal. In our department we assist low income individuals with naturalization, asylum, U-Visa and VAWA applications. Most people we help are Central American Spanish speakers. My job is to intake clients, sort through client documents and request documents from DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). I get to hear the courageous stories of immigrants that risk their lives to come to our country and build relationships with clients which mean so much to me. This job really makes me appreciate the little things and view things a little differently.  

Q: What's a normal day entail for you?

A: A normal day in the office starts with me checking my email for assignments or replies from the previous day. I usually spend some time responding to emails and completing assignments I am tasked with. After I'm done with that, I continue to follow up with clients and their files. I handled about 5-7 cases to a time. I go through these files to see what each client is missing and which documents need to be sent where according to each person's case. I'm usually calling clients trying to follow up with them to see how they are doing throughout this process because it can be long, discouraging and frustrating. Some days we go to clinics at private firms around the city where we pair clients with attorneys that volunteer to represent them free of charge. Every day is different depending on what the attorneys have lined up. 

Q: Any particular moment at your internship stick out for you so far? 

A: The most memorable moment so far this summer was when I screened my first client. I was super nervous, and I felt totally unqualified. The client spoke strictly Spanish so I had to use an interpreter that was over the phone. The whole thing seemed so surreal, but it ended up well. I was able to conduct a decent screening while also obtaining all the information I needed to progress his case which is always helpful. 

Q: Outside of work, what's it been like living in NYC for the summer? Have you done anything particularly interesting in your free time?

A: The city of New York is a beast with all types of people everywhere, and I have loved every minute of it. This really is the city that never sleeps. When I am not working I enjoy running in Riverside Park and Central Park or exploring Harlem. Taking the subway and getting off at random stops has also become a hobby of mine. Every street is unique and it has been up to me to explore it. New York City is also full of delicious food; you can get a hot piece of pizza for a dollar on every other street corner in the city. However, my favorite part of the city has to be Brooklyn. Brooklyn's vibe is like something off a movie. I go there every chance I can get. Being in the city has also made it very convenient for me to go on college visits and look at potential law schools. One of the cooler things was having dinner with Wooster alumni in the city. This city literally has it all.

Q: What are you hoping to takeaway and accomplish from this experience?

A: This experience has had a great influence on my decisions for the future. While law schools have always been my main goal, this internship has made me reconsider which types of law I eventually want to go into. Many great relationships have flourished from this experience as well. I have met many attorneys and law students that have been able to give me advice based on their experiences which has been helpful when thinking about the future. This internship has made grow in so many positive ways as well. Being in the big city by myself for two months has forced me to improve my savvy grocery shopping skills and making decisions for myself. This was an invaluable experience that has really shaped the way I view my future. 

About APEX Fellowships

APEX Fellowships offer structure and mentored support to students engaged in unpaid summer internships or vocational exploration programs of at least six weeks (or at least 225 hours) in duration. The fellowship includes funding, a learning contract, regular structured reflection, final reflective assignment and evaluation, on-campus reporting, and ongoing staff support. This summer, the College's experiential learning team funded 60 such fellowships. To learn more about the College's APEX Fellowship program visit here.