At Valparaiso University, students are invited to dream big to make their world a better and safer place for future generations. Abbey Zombik ’20, an international relations graduate, found her calling at the cornerstone of diplomacy and humanitarian well-being.
When Abbey took an international humanitarian law course at Valpo, she was given the opportunity to experience how the field impacts both individuals and communities. Amy Atchison, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and international relations, gave her students the option to participate in an American Red Cross International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Youth Action Campaign (YAC).
“I become a lead advocate for Valpo’s team,” Abbey says. “We ran on-campus events that were very successful; I was beyond thrilled with the response we saw in our community.”
Abbey and her team educated others to promote awareness on international humanitarian law — the body of law that governs armed conflict. From this leadership experience and the values-based education she received at Valpo, she was able to secure an internship focused on humanitarian law.
“Abbey led the fall 2019 team and absolutely knocked the project out of the park,” Professor Atchison says. “I’m thrilled — but not surprised — that she received a very competitive internship at Red Cross National Headquarters, where she has helped to lead the very program that sparked her interest in IHL. Abbey’s vocation is service, and I’m so proud that she’s a Valparaiso University alumna.”
During the first half of her internship in summer 2021, Abbey focused on the YAC Summit, a nationwide event where different campaigns share how they chose to teach their communities. This year’s topic was on education during armed conflicts and how schools and other educational institutions should be protected during combat.
In addition to the YAC Summit, Abbey also worked on a podcast, a career panel, guest speaker events with a U.S. Senator and members from the TV show “Blood & Treasure,” and a virtual event about humanitarian law through the lens of Harry Potter. She also took the lead on YAC’s national symposium, which is designed to showcase students and advocates who weren’t selected for the annual summit.
Abbey’s passion for international relations also permeated her educational ambition. She is pursuing a joint master’s degree through the Erasmus Mundus program, which allows graduate students to attend multiple institutions in the European Union to develop international collaborative networks, projects, and research. So far she has studied at University College Dublin in Ireland and the University of Warsaw in Poland.
Through her graduate school program and internship, Abbey is gaining skills and experience that will help her achieve her dream of working with the United Nations.
“If I could hand-pick an occupation, I would want to ensure standards in refugee camps are met,” Abbey says. “Through the UN, I would focus on business aspects and limiting human rights atrocities. I’d address concerns like water management, waste management, lighting, safety, and medical access.”
Abbey’s love for diplomacy also started through a Valpo class — one that focused on Model UN. She attended a conference in Chicago and gained experience acting in a diplomatic manner even in the midst of heated issues. Through her commitment and leadership as a representative of Syria, Abbey was the first winner of the Outstanding Delegate Award from Valpo.
Wherever Abbey’s career may take her, whether to the UN or the Red Cross, she is committed to shining light on international tragedies and atrocities, so that the world may work together for a brighter future.