Aliya Klein ’22

PEN America, New York, NY

This summer, I was a research intern with PEN America’s office in Washington, DC. PEN America’s mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Its DC office is more focused on policy initiatives and enlisting Congressional support in ensuring these freedoms.

During my time at PEN, I drafted over ten policy memos, press releases, presentations, and mail merges regarding the recent Belarusian election, legislative threats to protestors in the United States, support for journalists during the pandemic, and the ongoing imprisonment of women activists in Saudi Arabia. I created a legislative database tracking 58 Congressional bills across a variety of technological sectors, and conducted research and analysis on these bills as well as their impact on freedom of expression. My capstone project was a research article on economic liberalization and its relationship to freedom of expression in Russia. I also attended webinars on American diplomacy, foreign policy in Russia and in Belarus, and the economic circumstances of countries in Northern Europe, specifically Finland.

My experience at PEN America ended up being very relevant to my own personal interests in politics and economics (as well as Middle Eastern studies). That said, I was exposed to various topics that I likely never would have pursued on my own. While I’m interested in the legislative branch of the United States, I have always been more interested in foreign policy, so spending time getting to know the ins and outs of Congress was very meaningful and informative. Learning more about the legislative process, as well as contributing to policy initiatives and outreach in a way that actually made an impact and was supported by members of Congress has prompted me to want to take more classes on United States policy.

I also was planning on entering the field of foreign policy after college, and because of my experience with PEN America I have also begun to consider a career as a Congresswoman. I used to have no interest in getting myself personally involved with DC politics and domestic policy, but given the state of the world this year and given that I spent the majority of my summer doing Congressional outreach, I may be changing my tune.

Overall, my internship was a great opportunity to keep pursuing my career in public policy. I was entrusted with complicated tasks that I had never done or attempted before—doing research on possible funding opportunities, writing grant proposals, writing about public policy concerns and using that to influence the concerns of Congresspeople—and was given extremely constructive feedback. I know that I will enter my junior year much more professionally equipped, which will likely improve my grades, too.

I am extremely thankful to the Class of 1972 and to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, as I would not have been able to pursue such an educational and fulfilling job opportunity this summer, especially given the complicated state of the world. I learned so much!