In his words: How Kyle Hammerness ’23 used his French education to assist immigration law cases

Kyle Hammerness
Kyle Hammerness ’23 in front of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris during his semester abroad in France

I came to Gettysburg College with the goal to build the skills and experiences that could help me prosper in a future career in law. My sophomore year, I took a constitutional law class I really enjoyed with my advisor, Political Science Prof. Scott Boddery, but I eyed an internship in the general legal field back home in California. This past summer, I worked with Ian Seruelo, an immigration attorney based in San Diego, who was looking for candidates who could communicate with his bilingual clients, many of whom use English as a second language.

Thanks to my French studies at Gettysburg, I was able to bring those skills into the law office. In the fall semester of 2021, I had studied abroad in France after two years of French courses. I was initially nervous to go abroad because most of that classroom time was spent virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. I talked with French Chair Caroline Ferraris-Besso, who was my professor for French 202, and she assured me that I was ready to do the immersion program in Nantes. When I arrived in Nantes and met my host family, who did not speak English, I was fully immersed into their culture, and used and improved my French language skills every day.

Through this internship, I helped Seruelo bring Haitian immigrants through the immigration court system. Using my background in French, I translated Haitian government documents such as birth certificates, death certificates, and extracts from Haitian municipal courts. These translations were used for multiple motions and applications that our clients submitted. Although I may not go into immigration law specifically, this internship taught me a lot about immigration and the challenges in the field to help reunite families in the United States.

Looking back, I’ve reflected how this internship fulfills both the second and the third of the Four Pillars of Gettysburg College’s strategic plan: teaching students how to have an impact and experiential learning. This internship had the potential to help many people in vulnerable positions who do not have a voice for themselves, and it allowed me to get hands-on experience in the legal field. I would not have been able to succeed without the education I have received at Gettysburg College—it laid the foundation I needed. This was a very formative experience for me, and I cannot wait to see how I can develop these skills as I continue my education in law school and beyond.

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By Kyle Hammerness ’23
Photo courtesy of Kyle Hammerness ’23
Posted: 01/25/23

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