Vacation v Field Study

This is very behind the times. I’ve been back in Canada for months now and I’m back to classes. But, I still want to share all about my European adventures as I promised. So this post is about our field study week. Or, as us PILs (Public International Law students) called it, our vacation. For the business kids it really was more of a field study – they were go go go -ing all week long. For us in the PIL program it was a lot more relaxing.

Before our week started though a bunch of us – mostly PIL, but also some of the business kids – took a trip to Amsterdam. It was a real experience, but not something I would want to repeat. I mean, if a free trip to Amsterdam was offered I would take it, but I definitely wouldn’t plan a trip there that I had to pay for.

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Amsterdam started out well, turned into pure chaos when we thought our hostel had bed bugs (it didn’t), and then ended up being fun. Honestly, it was beautiful during the day, but (of course) skeevy at night. I did end up going out with the entire group to a bar in the Red Light District. I feel like it was one of those things I am glad I can say I’ve done, but even if I won a free trip to Amsterdam I wouldn’t do it again.

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Canals!

One of the girls on our trip with us got a suggestion from some of the guys we met at our new hostel that we should go out to Den Haag early and enjoy it. They said it was a really nice place and that we would probably love it. So, we left a little earlier than a lot of our group and I was glad to get out of there. I was pretty much done with Amsterdam by that point.

And, he was right. I absolutely loved Den Haag. It had all the beauty of Amsterdam that I enjoyed, but none of the skeeviness. It even had a beach (I didn’t actually go to the beach, but a lot of people did at some point during the trip).

Den Haag was the first part of the PIL field study week. Basically, this involved us getting to go to a bunch of really cool international organizations and meet with interesting people involved in international law. Sadly, most of the places we went in Den Haag did not allow us to take pictures and one of the people in charge of our trip would not let us bring our phones or cameras so even if we were allowed to take pictures we did not have the ability to do so. It was very disappointing.

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The International Criminal Court!!!

That said, the places we visited in Den Haag were: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The OPCW had a special place in my heart because it was one of the committees I had done at a Model UN conference during my undergrad. I was super disappointed that I didn’t get to take any photos. The STL was actually the surprise gem of Den Haag. I didn’t know much about it before I went, but the high tech stuff they were doing was actually really, really cool. And of course the ICC was amazing. One of the people travelling with us actually used to work there so it felt like we really got the start treatment!

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Binnenhof!

We then moved onward to Geneva. I actually found Geneva to be rather disappointing. I knew it was very expensive going in, but I think I just expected it to be more impressive than it was. It was nice enough, but I just expected it to be better. The visits we made there were pretty awesome though. And we were allowed to take pictures this time!

In Geneva we went to The UN Officer of the High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR), the Canadian Mission to the UN, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). And yes, some of those acronyms could get confusing after a while.

And finally, on our last day in Geneva, 3 of us went to the UN Headquarters there. The business kids had gotten to go as part of their official trips but we had not and I personally think we should have been taken. Regardless, I’m definitely glad I went.

The really cool thing was that the UN office there was actually the headquarters of the old League of Nations too (the predecessor to the UN). And so they had all the old insignia and rooms and stuff. And we even got to sit in the room where wars had been argued about and/or even settled. It was an amazing experience.

The whole week was a one of a kind opportunity and I feel so privileged to have been able to do such a thing. The Castle itself was a lot of work, but in my mind it was definitely worth it.

  • Kali

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Local Tour

Life at the Castle is settling in. The way you can tell this is twofold: firstly, we already have an exam coming up (this Monday), and secondly, people have started planning their weekend trips away.

Next weekend I’ll be going to Budapest to see the city and hang out with a friend of mine from undergrad who lives there now. There’s a few other people planning Budapest for that weekend too and a group going to Wales and Dublin, and another group doing Vienna & Budapest.

But earlier this week a bunch of us went and had a bit of a more local adventure. And, naturally, I took a couple pictures to share the experience with the internet.

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Tea at Badger’s Tea House [insert obligatory comment about Hufflepuffs here]

The first stop was the tiny village of Alfriston. It was definitely a gorgeous day for it. A group of us had our first stop at a tea house (I had real cream tea with scones, jam, and clotted cream. Yum!) before walking around the village.

Next we headed to the town of Lewes. It was much bigger and also had a castle! There sure are a lot of castles around here.

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Part of Lewes Castle

Lewes was also good for walking around in. I ended up walking around and checking out bookshops (I made sure not to buy anything though), a stationary shop, and a couple of bakeries/cafes. I got this delicious berry donut and the friend I was wandering with bought this delicious tikka masala pastry (he gave me a bite!). Oh! And we found this adorable little chocolate shop and I purchased a couple chocolates from there as well.

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One of the views from the top of Lewes Castle. Cute, right?

We then stopped at a little pub in East Dean (apparently the house Sherlock Holmes retired to is there – though I’m not really sure how that works, but it was pointed out to us) before doing a walk to Birling Gap.

The cliffs at Birling Gap were beautiful. The walk was a little more strenuous than I had been told, but it was definitely worth it.

Honestly, as much as I can’t wait for Budapest (and Amsterdam the next week) the local surroundings are pretty dang gorgeous as well. I feel so fortunate to be here.

  • Kali

English Country Walk

I’m not generally a huge fan of rural life, but it really is quite pretty even if I don’t think I could live here for more than a couple months. Where is here? Well, the Castle of course.

Yes, that’s right. I’ve arrived in England and classes have started here. I was able to spend a few days in London too and ended up meeting up with one of my best friends (& her boyfriend) and we went to Warner Brothers Studios to see the Making of Harry Potter. I have pictures from that, but currently my camera is not cooperating so I have no way to access the photos so a post about that will have to come later.

Instead, I’ll share a bit of the countryside around the Castle I’m currently calling home.

This was the cutest little church we ran into right near the Castle. The oldest grave we were able to read had a death date of 1763, but we didn’t look at all of them and there were definitely more than a couple we couldn’t read.

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Quite honestly I just liked the name of this place. I also like that all the houses around here seem to have names. I’m not sure how you pronounce Lyng (I’ve been saying ling though – so it rhymes with ring), but I do know that whoever this named this place was on point with their naming skills.

The streets around the Castle are narrow and I was a little bit nervous about cars, but the view was beautiful so I can see myself doing it again some time.

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Isn’t this place adorable? I don’t remember what it was named (though I’m pretty positive it was not Cleavers Lyng), but I couldn’t resist taking a photo. Honestly, walking around here sometimes makes me feel like I belong in a Jane Austen novel or something.

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Classes are busy, but every weekend is a 3 day weekend. Tomorrow we have a legal tour of London which sounds like it should be fun (but a real early day). I’m going to miss the professor we had this week though (Prof. L). He’s got the most adorable German accent and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t quite know what to make of us other than laughing at us.

But you know, if I were him I would be laughing too.

  • Kali

 

Sassy Answers to Future Questions

When you’re a kid the question of what you want to be when you grow up is fun and relatively simple for most of us. Generally you answer with a big grin and some far fetched idea. For me it was an actress – until I was 13 and then I was going to be a lawyer.

But it feels like the older you get, the more frustrating that question gets, the more pressure there seems to be to have a legitimate and thoughtful answer.

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There were times during my undergraduate degree when I waffled on the whole law school idea – though I always came back to it in the end – and times where even if I really wanted law school I just was not convinced I had a chance at being smart enough to get in. And it was around this time that the questions started cropping up again. “So, what do you want to do next?” “What are you going to do with that [a double major in political science and religious studies]?”

And I, like most of my classmates, both hated and dreaded that question in equal measure. Because the truth of the matter was that we weren’t 100% sure what was coming next, and even if we were sure what we wanted to come next that did not mean we would get it. And so my answers, as they tend to do when I’m feeling pressured, got sassy. “Oh, I’m going to solve the problems in the Middle East” I would say, or, “I’m going to save the world. Obviously.”

The same thing has happened now that I’m in law school. Except now the question isn’t asking what I’m going to do with my degree, but what kind of law I want to practice. And my answer isn’t as sassy (yet), but currently it’s something along the lines of “I’m not sure, but based on my classes for next year – the kind that won’t make any money”.

And yes, this is a long winded way of saying what my classes are for next year. So, here they are:

Fall Semester

  1. Family Law
  2. Mental Health Law
  3. Business Associations
  4. Clinical Litigation Practice (which is basically my working in the legal aid clinic)

Winter Semester

  1. Civil Procedure
  2. Administrative Law
  3. Immigration and Refugee Law
  4. Feminist Legal Studies Workshop
  5. Clinical Litigation Practice

So yeah, I wasn’t exactly kidding when I said the kinds of law that aren’t the big money makers, but I’m so excited and really there is more to life than money.

  • Kali

I Capture the Castle

Castle

Well, okay, I’m not actually capturing anything, but it seemed like a fun title to reveal my summer plans. Which, again, sadly do not involve any capturing, but does involve a castle!

As you may or may not know if you’ve been following this blog, I attend Queen’s University (the Canadian one). One of the really neat things about Queen’s is the fact that it owns a castle in England. Because why not, right?

Queen’s Law offers two summer programs at the castle – International Business Law and Public International Law. I had been hemming and hawing on this one for awhile. But Kali (I imagine you saying) – it’s a castle! In England! You’ll basically be Harry Potter! While these are all very legitimate arguments, the issue was the price tag attached. But, I was talking to one of my 2L friends yesterday and she pointed out that A: I would be taking classes I wanted to take anyway, B: it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and C: I don’t have any other summer plans.

So, I filled out a bursary application form and handed in my program application this afternoon. It’s all but official, for part of this summer I’m going to be living in a castle in England. 100 points to Slytherin for taking advantage of a first rate opportunity!

And for those who are wondering – I applied for Public International Law. I’m not super interested in business law (which is unfortunate since that’s where all the money is) and I figured taking business law courses in the condensed and intensive format the castle program requires would probably not be the brightest of ideas.

It may not actually be Hogwarts, but it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get.

  • Kali

Power Poses

I’ve been negligent I suppose and I apologize. Second term has been a whirlwind of classes, reading, and the beginnings of our exposure to oral advocacy.

Oral advocacy is not a thing I’m good at. I get super nervous speaking in front of people. Sure, I’m better than I used to be (thank Model UN!), but I definitely still get very nervous. I’ve heard on multiple occasions people say that this seems surprising because apparently I don’t seem that way when I’m speaking normally.

Partially I suspect this is because I don’t feel like I need to impress my friends when we’re just talking normally. Sure, once upon a time I felt more of a need to impress my friends and that’s not to say I don’t care what my friends think of me – because I definitely do – but it’s still less pressure than speaking in front of my professors or even, one day, in court.

So far we’ve had two main oral advocacy exercises – one in Criminal law and a moot (basically a practice court situation, but only the part where you make your argument, not the bit with witnesses and stuff) in my Introduction to Legal Skills (ILS) class.

The Criminal law one was definitely more nerve wracking – that was partially because of the professor being more intimidating and partially because of the subject matter. My criminal law professor is one of the biggest names in Canadian criminal law – he literally wrote the textbook – and the case we were arguing was one about consent in sexual situations. If I never hear my professor say the phrase ‘kinky sex’ ever again it will still be too soon.

The subject matter for my ILS moot was drier – contractual interpretation of an indemnity clause – which was something more comfortable to talk about even if a tad boring. But, honestly, what I think really made the difference was two main things – my comfort with my professor and the fact that myself and my partner did some power poses beforehand.

Power poses are basically just things like putting your hands on your hips (Superwoman pose) or doing the Nixon ‘peace sign hands in the air’ thing, etc. It sounds dumb and honestly I felt a little silly at first, but it does loosen you up and calm you down. Or, at least, it did for me. There’s even a TED Talk about it so that must mean it works!

See!

  • Kali

Exams!? Already!?

“You paid the big bucks to be judgmental.”

This was the advice my criminal law professor gave to us the other day. He was trying to make the point that we need to commit ourselves to our answers in the exam setting (and the point was well made), but it makes me laugh anyway.

In my best judgment I’ve got to say that it seems crazy that exam season is already upon us. And I know a lot of people in my year feel the same – we feel like it’s much too soon for us to already be a semester into law school. That feeling of ‘wow, I’m actually in law school’ has mostly faded, but it still pops up from time to time.

I feel like I’m on top of things though. It’s a weird feeling somewhere between stress and zen that I’ve never really had before. It’s possibly because of the curve – that knowledge that it’s really incredibly hard to fail law school, but also very difficult to do very well.

In addition, NaNoWriMo went well. I hit my 50K and actually finished the last book in a trilogy I started years ago. In fact, there seemed to be less NaNo stress this time. Part of that was probably because I was writing familiar characters and a familiar world, and part of it probably came from the fact that I was able to get ahead in my word count because the first week of NaNo coincided with reading break, but a lot of it also came from the fact that I did not have any papers to write so there was no moment of panic in Week 3 when I realized I had 3 weeks to write 4 papers.

All in all things seem to be going smoothly. Even though I still get the odd shock that I’m actually in law school I mostly just feel like I belong.

  • Kali