How an internship in Ireland inspired a political science major to pursue a career in immigration law

Author: Colleen Wilcox

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Samantha Caesar ’14, originally from Baldwin, New York, is an immigration attorney in Washington, D.C. As an associate in Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP’s Government Strategies group, she helps immigrants navigate the U.S. immigration system and find solutions to challenging problems. She writes about how a Notre Dame education and experience abroad in Ireland led to a fascinating and fulfilling career.

My path to becoming an immigration attorney started and took off at Notre Dame. There, I majored in political science with a concentration in international relations. My very first courses at Notre Dame taught me about what motivates political actors across the globe, from the beginning of the modern state system up until the present day. I was drawn to courses that touched on foreign relations and wanted to learn about how different countries organized their political systems.

At the same time, I was deeply curious about the human aspect of political affairs. Notre Dame offered courses that allowed me to explore my more specific interests within the broader net of political science, such as Political Economy of Globalization and NGOs in International Relations, both taught by faculty member Susan Rosato. In addition, two of my political science courses ultimately led to minoring in those areas — Irish Politics with Rev. Sean McGraw, C.S.C, led to a minor in Irish studies and Human Rights and Human Wrongs with associate professor Ernesto Verdeja led to a minor in peace studies. Both minors gave me insight into conflict resolution and problems people face in different areas of the world.

During the summer, Notre Dame helped me obtain internships that led me to a career that lays at the crossroads of law and policy, helping individuals from all over the world come to the United States. In the summer of 2012, I interned at the U.S. House of Representatives. By day, I attended meetings for the Committee on Foreign Relations and Intelligence, and by night I discussed politics of the day with my Notre Dame roommates and apartment neighbors, who also were interning on Capitol Hill.

With the support of the Dublin Global Gateway in the summer of 2013, I interned at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. I worked in the Anglo-Irish Division helping to distribute reconciliation funds to groups in Northern Ireland and the border region that were committed to keeping the peace following the Good Friday Agreement. Outside of work, I learned how much I enjoyed connecting with people from different parts of the world and found my calling in having a broader reach beyond my local community.

Retreat JumpingCaesar at the annual intern reflective weekend at the Killian Homeplace, Fermoyle, County Longford, part of the fully immersive experience of the Irish Internship Programme

By my junior and senior years, I had decided that I wanted to apply to law school. To prepare me for that experience, I took courses in International Law, Comparative Law, and International Courts and Dispute Resolution with associate professor Emilia Powell. With the help of Susan Rosato and associate professor Sebastian Rosato, I applied for a grant to conduct research at the International Criminal Court. Notre Dame funded me for a week-long independent research experience in the Hague, the Netherlands, where I interviewed prosecutors and investigators to determine why the Court struggled to bring some of the world’s most heinous criminals to justice. After I returned from that experience, I applied and was admitted to Duke Law’s dual-degree program, enabling me to obtain a J.D. as well as an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law, and continued to pursue my passion in all things international.

LawCaesar graduated from Duke Law’s dual degree program, obtaining a J.D. as well as an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law

My Notre Dame experiences stayed with me throughout law school, and after my first year I returned to Ireland, again, to continue work inspired by my time at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. I spent a month in Belfast working at KRW Law, a human rights firm that does work relating to crimes committed during The Troubles. After that, I studied in Geneva, Switzerland, for a month, learning about international institutions while building friendships with fellow classmates from all over the world.

Fast forward to today, I now live in Washington, D.C., doing fascinating and fulfilling work as immigration attorney, and I have Notre Dame to thank for all of that. Notre Dame allowed me to explore my passions both inside and outside of the classroom, which ultimately led to a career that is a perfect match for me. Though the campus may be situated in South Bend, Indiana, Notre Dame’s reach is far and wide. Notre Dame instilled within me its mission to help people on a global scale, and I hope to continue on that path for the rest of my days.

Learn more about the Irish Internship Programme. 

Originally published at