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20 Questions with Intern Olena Ripnick

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Each season Immigration Equality offices welcome interns, legal fellows, and volunteers. Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to some of them with 20 questions. Want to work with us? Find out more here.

Name: Olena Ripnick
Age: 26
School/Major/Year: Fordham Law J.D. Candidate, May 2014
Position: Legal Intern
Office: New York Headquarters




In one sentence, what do you do all day?

I work primarily with our bi-national couples team in assisting bi-national same-sex couples who cannot sponsor their foreign national partners for Green Cards under the discriminatory and hateful so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

How is that going?


What are you hoping to accomplish while here?

In addition to developing my own legal skills, I wish to advocate on behalf of bi-national same-sex couples and advance the LGBT equality movement.

Where are you from?

I’m just a small town girl … raised on the foot of the ski slopes in Hunter, New York.

Summertime outdoors is ….


Are you in school this semester?


What’s your advice for striking school/internship/life balance?

In my experience as a law student, there wasn’t much time for anything but study, but for the hour or two a day I was off, I let myself be completely off. Whether it’s going for a jog or practicing Bikram yoga (my two favorite study breaks) or whatever it is you do to take a break from the grind, be sure to step away completely and not even think about study or school while you’re doing it. A clear head works wonders and increases productivity. Also, get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I do not subscribe to the theory that law students need to be sleep deprived! Being tired just makes for more work in the end.

Is mixing school and an internship worth it?

Absolutely! While I am not mixing the right two now as I’m interning with Immigration Equality over the summer, I am really looking forward to starting my 2L year and interning with a different organization for each of my remaining four semesters of law school.

What do you do in your free time?

What free time? I’m a law student! I do practice Bikram yoga and jog regularly (I’ve recently gotten into competitive running and hope to run the NYC marathon for charity in 2013), and on the rare occasion I have a moment to breathe I enjoy alpine skiing, playing the piano (or guitar or French horn), cooking, and reading.

What are you currently reading?

The New Yorker, Ringolevio (my #1 favorite book of all time that I re-read about once a year), and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I also have a particular soft spot for Michael Connelly, John Grisham, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games novels.

Favorite TV show?

Generally varies, but at the moment White Collar & Real Time With Bill Maher

If you had one superpower what would it be?

I would love to be able to read minds. That would come in so handy!

What’s the most surprising part of your internship?

I come home from work every single day knowing I’ve helped at least one person. It’s an incredible feeling.

What’s the hardest part?

As a member of a bi-national same-sex couple whose partner was forced to leave our home in the United States because of DOMA, working with Immigration Equality makes very real the discrimination I suffer on a daily basis. However, my internship is equally uplifting because it serves as a reminder that we are not the only ones in this situation. As I work with our legal team to help similarly-situated couples, I experience firsthand the progress we are making on a daily basis and I know it is only a matter of time before my partner and I and the more than 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples in America will be afforded the equal rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

What’s your interest in immigration rights?

I’m interested in assisting bi-national same-sex couples and working to repeal DOMA so that same-sex couples are afforded the same immigration rights as different-sex couples.

How did you learn about Immigration Equality?

Professor Joseph Landau, an IE Board Member, was a speaker at Fordham Law’s April 2011 Admitted Student’s Day. I read about Immigration Equality in his bio and peppered him with questions after his presentation. By the time I left the lecture hall, I knew I wanted to intern here.

Are you at immigration Equality just for the summer?


To whom would you recommend an Immigration Equality internship?

Everyone! This is an incredible internship and I would encourage anyone with an interest in immigration or LGBT law to work with Immigration Equality.

What are you planning next after your time with us?

2L Year!

One Response to 20 Questions with Intern Olena Ripnick

  1. Pauline Titterton says:

    Olena, you are personally helping me with the issue of being the bi-national partner of a USA citizen. Your professionalism is outstanding, and you certainly understand the plight of the bi-nationals. Politicians need to realise it is not only the 36,000 in USA, numbers need to be counted for those US citizens who are living in exile in another country.
    Well done on your internship, and may your future law studies and internships be as rewarding to you as is Immigration Equality.

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