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UC Law students secure prestigious internship in Washington

08 November 2023

Two exceptional Canterbury law students are embarking on an exciting journey as they prepare for prestigious internships in the United States Congress in Washington, DC.


UC Law students Emily Speirs and Rā Neilsford-Jones will be interning at the United States Congress in Washington, DC.


Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) Law students Rā Neilsford-Jones and Emily Speirs are two of four Aotearoa New Zealand students heading to Washington later this month as part of the NZUS Council Mike Moore Internship Programme.

The Programme is jointly funded by UC and the Auckland-based NZUS Council and provides students the opportunity to gain beneficial work experience as they engage with the US political system, build invaluable connections, and develop a deeper understanding of international relations.

SDG 4 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

Emily, who is studying towards a double-degree in Arts and Laws majoring in Political Science and International Relations, says her career ambitions are driven by her thirst for knowledge.

She explains that her natural curiosity to understand how the world works motivated her to study at UC. The fourth-year student will be interning for Congressman Darrell Issa, who is a senior member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees.

“I want to get into Foreign Affairs, so the opportunity to do a little bit of youth ambassadorship and be in another country representing New Zealand while learning about foreign governments really interests me.

“The US is like a powerhouse. It’s massive and so many world policies revolve around it. I think it’s really interesting to get a first-hand look at how it works.”

Emily has had many people reach out to offer advice since news of her internship broke, including UC alum Rachael Evans.

Now a Lecturer in the University’s Kaupeka Ture | Faculty of Law, Evans was one of the first UC students to participate in the internship programme.

“From hand-delivering a letter from my senator to then Vice President Joe Biden, to accessing the reading room floor of the library of Congress, to walking the halls of power every day, the experience was truly unique. It really made me stand out in the job market,” Evans says about her 2012 internship.

Rā is studying towards a double degree; a Bachelor of Laws and Science, majoring in Physics.

“I like understanding how the world works and it’s a really cool contrast to see how the laws of the universe work versus the laws of the people.”

He says he is interested in anything related to kaupapa Māori and looks forward to the opportunity to intern for the US’ longest-standing native American congressman, Representative Tom Cole.

Liaising with other constituents is just one aspect of Rā’s internship.

“Anyone can google how the American constitution works and what the processes are to getting a bill elected to parliament, but seeing the interactions that people have and what goes behind the scenes to that will be very interesting,” he says.

The NZUS Council Mike Moore Internship Programme, initiated by then New Zealand Ambassador, Right Honourable Mike Moore and his team at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington DC including NZ Diplomat Matthew Hawkins, was conceived as a way to commemorate the resilience of Ōtautahi Christchurch following the devastating 2011 earthquake. It provides a unique opportunity to contribute to fostering a stronger bond between Aotearoa New Zealand and the United States.

Over the years, the NZUS Council in collaboration with the Embassy, has continued to manage and expand the programme. In 2015, Victoria University of Wellington was included to provide more young New Zealanders with the opportunity to gain experience in Congress. The University of Auckland Business School joined the programme earlier this year, further reinforcing the initiative's significance.

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