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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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

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

Saucy Intruder

Some people say that law school is just like going back to high school. In some ways I can see their point – you’re all in one building, you have classes with the same people (though I imagine this is less so in upper years when you get to choose your classes), and you even have lockers.
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Despite all this though there are still times when I’m sitting in class and suddenly it will just hit me – holy crap, I’m actually in law school. I know it’s real, but it’s still kind of hard to believe.

On one of our first days of Property our prof went over a case called Pierson v. Post. The basics of Pierson v. Post are that Post went out to catch a fox, but before he managed it Pierson basically jumped out of the woods and caught the fox – Pierson, according to the judgement, is a ‘saucy intruder’. But Pierson got to keep the fox; sometimes the saucy intruder wins (even if he is a jerk). And sometimes I feel like the saucy intruder of law school. Like I don’t deserve to be here, but I finagled my way in anyway. And the judges somehow came down on my side.

How is a shipwreck like a fox?

How is a shipwreck like a fox? Who is the saucy intruder?

But, then sometimes I do feel like I fit. I understand what is going on in classes, I’m keeping up with the reading (for now), and I was even selected for a position with Pro Bono Students Canada. And, if nothing else, I am sitting in the law lounge at 9am. So I guess I must belong.

Chai latte from CoGro - I still kind of miss Biblio though!

Chai latte from CoGro – I still kind of miss Biblio though!

  • Kali

3 Hours Ahead

Well, I live in Ontario now and that’s super weird. Before this I had never lived anywhere else so this is a major change. Go big or go home it seems to be in my world.

Decision made!

Decision made!

Myself and my future roommate went and visited Kingston the other day and we found a place to live. We did it all in one loong day, but it was a success. Our place is in a cute little neighborhood only a 15 minute walk from the university. Kingston’s a lot smaller than Victoria, but it kind of seems like a miniature version of my hometown which is comforting.

I feel like I keep calling everything ‘cute’ or ‘quaint’ or ‘adorable’ – but it really does look that way to me. There seems to be a lot of sweet little neighborhoods all done up in brick and stone. I miss the west coast for sure (and my family and friends out there), but so far I like Ontario. I imagine this might change once winter hits though!

  • Kali

Bittersweet

I know I haven’t blogged in forever, but I needed to write out my thoughts and I suppose that was the intent of this blog in the first place. Today is my class registration day. My last one ever. There are a few reasons I’m just not as excited this year – partially it’s the fact that though I’m excited for some of the classes I’m planning, I’m kind of disappointed with this years offerings as a whole, but more importantly it’s the fact that this is the last time I’m guaranteed to be doing this. 

Like most people my age I’ve spent the majority of my life in school – 17 out of 23 years. I took one year off between high school and university and even though I was unhappy at the time, some good things have happened because of it (I went to Wrockstock, I started doing NaNo, and it meant I met the friends I have now). Even during that year though I knew I had school to look forward too. I am fortunate that I live in a country where if you want to go to university you’re going to get to go. Sure, you might have debt (I do), but it’s not insurmountable and a university education is basically guaranteed if you want it. However, I’m now at the point where there are no guarantees that I will get to continue my education even though the idea of not being in school is absolutely terrifying.

I make average grades (a B+/A- average) and I’m not that great at logic games. These two things combined make it unlikely I’ll get into law school. I’m certainly still going to try – I’m planning to take the LSAT in October – but realistically I don’t know what I’m going to do. There’s no way I’m getting into grad school as I’m not in honors in either of my faculties (not smart enough in poli sci and it’s not even offered for religious studies) and you need honors to get into grad school most places. 

I guess I’m just in a kind of melancholy mood thinking about all this stuff. I even found myself going through my old high school yearbooks this morning. I don’t wish I was back in high school (then I’d still have to take math – yuck!), but I do miss the certainty of knowing what came next. And looking back at my yearbooks and seeing all the things people wrote made me think of how hopeless I am at staying in touch with people. I had a group of really close friends in high school and we referred to ourselves as G-STRMNICK for all of our names. I was never all that close with everyone, but I was really close with the S, the T, the R, and to a lesser extent the I. The S and the R both went to school in Calgary, but the T and the I are still here in the city. I even still see the I sometimes as we’re both at UVic. However, I’m not really in touch with any of them anymore. And it makes me worry that in 4/5 years I won’t be in touch with my current close friends either – Rachel, Aaron, Kylie, Ashley, Emma, Steph… among others. 

I don’t like uncertainty. I never have. And even though people (and by people I mostly mean my mom) call me a drama queen, I think my worries are pretty standard. I’m trying to keep upbeat about all of this, but it’s kind of depressing to think that this is the last year. I joke that I’m going to be a mess this year, but it’s not really a joke. The thought of what I’m going to do next is paralyzing. I’m not prepared for the real world, but I know I’m not smart enough to do more school. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to get into more school because I am, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when I don’t get in.