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P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Q&A: JD Student Mariana Olaizola Rosenblat Looks Back At The Fellowship

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The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans provides two years of funding for outstanding graduate students who are immigrants and children of immigrants. After two years the Fellows join a lifelong community of past Fellows. We asked Mariana Olaizola Rosenblat, a 2017 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, to look back at the first two years of the Fellowship and what they have meant to her.

Mariana was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and grew up there before her family moved to the suburbs of Washington, DC. Mariana received a bachelor's degree from Princeton University. The Fellowship supported her JD at Yale School of Law.

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Why did you apply to The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans?

Two years into my work in Myanmar, where I lived after graduating from college, I realized that the world of the law held tools that I needed to master in order to push for progressive changes in the international legal structure aimed at protecting individuals and ensuring their rights. Once in law school, I looked to the PD Soros Fellowship as an opportunity to reaffirm my passion for and commitment to work in public-interest international law. I hoped to find a supportive community and to use the Fellowship as a platform for bringing attention to issues that preoccupy me— namely, the barriers to cross-border migration and the persistence of statelessness around the world.

Has the Fellowship been what you expected?

The Fellowship has been everything that I hoped for, and more. Prior to applying, I gathered through conversations with some Fellowship alumni that the PD Soros Fellowship was truly a fellowship—a community of likeminded (or, shall I say, like-spirited) but extremely diverse individuals who grow to care genuinely about one another. I have not only found this to be true among other Fellows, but have experienced it myself. Every time I receive a congratulatory or supportive message from another Fellow or staff member, I remember that I am not alone in this (often frustrating and ever-winding) quest for justice and goodness in the world. Few things could be more precious.

What has the PD Soros Fellowship program brought to your life?

The PD Soros Fellowship has given me the self-confidence to follow my vocation and strive for the larger goals that drove me to graduate school in the first place. When others (or even I) start to question my career aspirations, I remember that my PD Soros family believes in me—that I was awarded this Fellowship because of the merit and sincerity of my goals for myself and the world.

What advice would you give to someone who is applying to the PD Soros Fellowships for New Americans?

My most important piece of advice as you go through the application is to be purely and audaciously yourself. There is no need to project any image—the committee will see through that. Try to shed your protective emotional gear and to be as open, vulnerable and transparent as you can. The experience—for both you and the committee—will be much more rewarding if you do.

Where are you with your graduate program now? What’s next?

I am graduating from law school in three days (it’s hard to believe!). In July, I will be moving to Buenos Aires, where I will work as a social protection associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regional office. My work will entail traveling to other South American countries—especially those suffering most acutely from the refugee crisis stemming from Venezuela’s humanitarian catastrophe—and devising policies on better integration of refugees into local host communities. As a Venezuelan-American with some family still in Caracas, getting to do this work fresh out of law school is my dream come true.