Payton Perry is an Enola, Pennsylvania alumnus who earned a degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology. She did an internship during the summer at the Parliament of London.
When Payton Perry started her internship at the Houses of Parliament in London, she didn’t know what to expect, but it probably wasn’t a summer of global political upheaval or that she would help bring a Ukrainian refugee family to safety.
“I wanted to go abroad for my internship. I thought it was important to get out of my small town so I could broaden my perspective and experience new things. His opportunity came with a position in the office of Luke Pollard, a British politician who is MP for the Plymouth Sutton and Devonport constituency.
“I kept thinking about how amazing it was to work in the government of another country. I pinched myself every time I walked out of the subway station to go to work.”
Perry enjoyed working in the city surrounded by beautiful historic buildings, and she loved the energy inside the Palace of Westminster when she was there. “There is a central hall which is like an intersection with the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Seeing how busy this area was was crazy. There are reporters, media, aides running around like crazy and MPs everywhere. It was exciting. And everyone was still very intrigued by the American intern, wondering what I was doing here.
Most of Perry’s work was for social media. She learned to use Adobe Premiere Pro so she could edit speeches and debates into short clips for various platforms. She has written articles on the website to keep Pollard Constituency and the people of the UK informed of her work. She was able to research prison and gun reform and see how politics plays into the development of laws, policies and bills that impact the criminal justice system.
More broadly, she learned how to work effectively in a professional environment as well as how to network and interact with managers, colleagues and the community. Her communication and writing skills came from her work with social media. “All of these things will benefit me in whatever career I choose. Also, knowing that I have the ability to work in a professional environment and can accomplish any task given to me has given me a lot of self-confidence.
One of Perry’s biggest projects was surprisingly moving.
Through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, UK residents can apply to sponsor individuals or families fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Several times a week, Perry visited the Home Office in Westminster and, on Pollard’s behalf, took on some of the work for potential sponsors and asylum seekers. She reviewed applications checking their progress and, acting as an intermediary, reported to a constituency team who would then report to the sponsor and candidates on the status of things or any issues with passports or visas .
Perry worked on a dozen cases throughout his internship, including two particularly memorable ones.
A 19-year-old had been given guardianship by her younger sister and was trying to get them both into the UK. At the time, however, there was no policy in place for minors, so their visas would not be approved for entry.
“It was really, really hard to hear and report. It broke my heart,” Perry recalled.
Another case was that of a mother and son who had filled out and sent in their applications about a month before Perry began his internship. Checking the pair, Perry discovered that their applications were not in the UK system despite showing up on the Ukrainian side. For weeks, Perry searched for information and tried to locate the imperative documents. She says she was starting to lose hope and mother and son were close to giving up when the applications were located. While the son’s request was accepted immediately, there was a delay with the mother’s, their future once again uncertain.
On the last day of her internship, Perry was informed that everything had been processed and that the two would be allowed into the country.
Perry says doing Pollard’s social media work and learning the ins and outs of Parliament has been a great experience, but being able to help others get asylum has been amazing.
“It was one of the most influential things I’ve ever done. They don’t know who I am, they have no idea I fought and stood up for them, but I impacted their lives. Even though there were only two people, I helped them to safety. It was the icing on the cake of my internship.
Perry says it was beyond anything she ever thought she would be a part of, and it’s not something she’ll ever forget.
While the situation in Ukraine raged over the summer, it was also a volatile time within Parliament itself.
Perry was at the forefront of the hubbub around Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She remembers attending one of the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions and seeing Johnson answer questions from the media first-hand, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her. Shortly after that occasion, a vote of no confidence was called after a series of controversies and scandals caused enough ministers in Johnson’s own party to turn against him.
“Parliament was hectic, and you could see people were a bit panicked, just waiting for news of what was going to happen. It was quite a hot time and a crazy thing to see.
Johnson resigned from his position shortly after Perry’s return to the United States.
Amid this British political upheaval, across the pond, the United States Supreme Court formally overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, declaring that the constitutional right to abortion no longer exists.
Perry says the issue was a big topic of conversation in Parliament, and it seemed like Americans seemed a bit silly to them when they noted that men and women from both political parties had expressed dismay and shock at the decision. “Everyone was asking me, the American, how I was doing and how they could help me. It was good to have that support while I was there.
Perry graduated in August and will work at a ski resort near his hometown until April. This will give him a chance to save some money and think about his next career steps. Long-term plans could include higher education or law school, but more immediate plans are to return to London for the summer of 2023, possibly on a simple one-way ticket.
“There is definitely a piece of my heart there, so I want to go back. I’m open to anything, maybe even work in Parliament again one day. I left there feeling so much more confident in myself, in my skills, and in my ability to step out of my comfort zone.
Perry encourages all students to consider interning outside of the United States to develop their own sense of self and empowerment and to develop a skill set for future employment.
“Every morning I was like, ‘what? who am I? what am I doing?’ It was almost like an out of body experience. It was amazing.”
To find out more about internships, contact Tom Shaffer, Academic Internship Coordinator, at [email protected] or 814-949-5789.