Category Archives: Travels

Day 11

Today was an extremely jam-packed day. As always, we had morning lectures from 9:20am to 12:30am. As it is the start of a new week, we had two new lecturers begin (our last lecture of the 3 hours is always completed by Edith Brown Weiss on her theory of ‘Norms in the Kaleidoscopic World’). As it turns out, our first lecture today is on the UN Compensation Commission – so basically 50min of me nerding out about the United Nations.
And today was a special treat in Brown Weiss’s lecture too! Most law/international relations scholars skip over scientific implications for international law – but not Brown Weiss. To be honest, in the first week when she mentioned highly contentious scientific topics and glancingly passed over the deep debates underneath them, I would have preferred she not mention them at all. But today was my day – today she actually discussed the indepth complications of new genetic engineering technology. And cybersecurity. And electronic currencies. I was pratically glue to every word out of her month. 
Overall – absolutely amazing set of morning lectures, perfectly tailored to my person interests (sadly also putting some of my fellow students to sleep….but thats a big reason why those in the humanities skip over science normally). You would think a perfect morning would be enough, but nope! At the Hague Academy, there is always something more interesting to do later on. So here is an overveiw of my afternoon:

  • Last minute meeting with the current US judge on the International Court of Justice: loved it! Wonderful lecture on the work of the ICJ, how judges are appointed, and how the judges work together. 
  • I was suppose to go visit the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, but the meeting with the Judge ran long, so instead I jumped into the group touring the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – basically amounting to research into how the OPCW works and formulating how (in my brain – for if I ever actually do a PhD on this) to suggest a similar  structure for implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention. 
  • Perfect timing! The tour ended right when myself, Tringa, and a fellow American (Wayne from Florida) needed to leave for the USA embassy visit. Now, anyone who follows US politics will probably know that currently the majority of the Ambassador positions are currently empty…(thanks Trump) But no worries – because we got an even more interesting speaker instead. One of the handful of US Legal Affairs lawyers stationed abroad is stationed in the Hague and she came to speak with us about what it is like to be a lawyer working in what is essentially a diplomat’s job. Plus they had really amazing food – I ate probably 10 mini-BBQ sandwiches… (and therefore didn’t have to cook dinner, which is perfect, because I hate to cook or even eat my own cooking.)
  • Afterwards, back to our communal home (Skotel), only to turn around and go on a walk along the beach with a friend, Gaurav from India. Where we find a totally awesome, vividly blue jellyfish stranded by the low tide. And I proceed to tell Gaurav everything I know about my second favorite invertebrate (the first being Octopus). And he proceeds to tell me I really am a total nerd (there is a reason I call myself one all the time!)

Yeah, so pretty awesome day overall! For photos of all these cool things – most are posted on my instagram account!

A Single Day to Explore

So far, every weekend I end up staying in the Hague and going to the Peace Palace to read all the books. (I’ve still pulled out a different book every 2 days; SO MANY BOOKS! SO LITTLE TIME!) But today I decided to go visit Delft. So I got up, got dressed, ate, and headed out on the tram. Thankfully our tram pass for the public transit during the course covers the tram to Delft, and 45 minutes later I finally reached the city.
Its pretty gorgeous; a ton of old buildings, a ton of cute little shops. I ate lunch [a croissant that tasted like strawberry shortcake😍] at a random bakery (my ‘I’m not eating processed sugar anymore’ pledge from June only lasted all of one day in Europe….), and found a cute little market outside of one of the churches. And ended up buying cheese for my parents, despite promising myself not to bring back food this trip…. Really, Europe is hell for food-promises to yourself. 
Right when I was going to walk around and explore the city, after buying all the required souvineers/presents, a huge storm rolled in. I ended up getting stranded in a random cafe (which turned out to be a huge restaurant, but I never realized this so I sat at a random table to wait the storm out, and only realized after that there were a ton of empty tables in the back….I definitely looked like a fool to the waitstaff, but the family at the table gave me permission so it is okay! Ish…)
The storm led me to give up on seeing more of Delft – I’ll be back to the Netherlands some day, I’ll explore more then. So I jumped back on the tram and headed back to the Hague – which was good, because the storm ended up shutting down a lot of trains around the Netherlands. The Hague had already been hit by the storm, so it was nice and sunny, and I ended up walking along the beach for a few hours. I always forget how much I love the ocean…now I totally want to spend part of my next year living at the NC beach since it is actually warm enough to swim there (the Hague’s beach is more like Vancouver – beautiful, but you do not go in without a wetsuit.)

Overall another good day in the Hague! 

P.S. Dad – semidrenched, but still alive. 

  

Day 10

The day has come – the day of the beach party has reached us. And thankfully, the Hague has had wonderful weather for our adventures tonight. As usual, we woke up, got ready, went to class, and sat in class until 12:30. Unlike the rest of the days this week, I had no plans for the evening, so instead it was off to the library for an hour or two before heading back to Skotel for a quick nap. Which was a good idea – we stayed up until 2:30am. 
The beach party was at ‘Whoosah Beach Club’ – which according to google maps was a lot closer to Skotel than it actually ended up being. Though, in google map’s defense, traveling to a party venue always takes more time with a group of 15+ people. Especially when we are walking, and many have already had a drink or two at the perpetual communal balcony party (this time, ‘communal balcony pre-drinking party’ – apparently no one outside of Vancouver says ‘pre-gaming’ for predrinking? The random things you learn…) Because it was a beach party, my flatmates and I decided to wear our swimsuits. Only, turns out, no one else followed our example…but its okay, I ended up swimming when we left at like 2am haha. (Not a smart idea y’all – do not recommend, I was freezing the rest of the night).
Overall – the party was pretty awesome. The music was terrible, but who cares about the music when you have amazing new friends (are we still new friends when we have lived for two weeks together?)  to hang out with!
P.S. Dad – I’m still alive. Cold, wet, and wishing the beaches here were warm like NC’s, but still alive.

Day 9

Another long day, but thankfully not as long as it could have been. Today we were suppose to have a huge beach party, but unfortunately the weather in the Hague was too bad… so instead it is postponed until tomorrow (and I’ll be sure to write all about it!)
So instead today, we had the three hours of morning lectures, followed by a book launch by a former ICJ Judge based off of his lectures last year before the Academy. He only spoke French, but because I really wanted his signature I ended up buying the book and having him sign it πŸ˜… Good incentive to learn French right? 
Afterwards, my flatmates and I went on a tour of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Its actually really lucky we are touring it now – in 6months the mandate of the Tribunal is complete and it will be shut down and all the work still underneath the tribunal will be transferred to a new court – the MICT (Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals) which has taken over the work of the Tribunal for Rwanda and other tribunals which have seen their mandates end already. It is also taking over the buidling of the ICTY, so you could say we just got a super early preview of the MICT?
Afterwards, I decided to attend a seminar by Professor Brown Weiss (from Georgetown University). It was on accountability of UN Peacekeeping Missions, with a semi-unintentional focus on the Cholera outbreak in Haiti caused by Pakistani peacekeepers after the earthquake in 2010. Now, being the nerd I am, I have actually written a Model UN Background Guide on this exact topic, so needless to say – I was pretty happy. My bigggest complaint though: international lawyers (Brown Weiss included) focus far too much on the legal responsibilities, without considering the pragmatic diplomatic realities that make many legal responsiblities simply wishful dreams of optomists. And that one PhD student who thought peacekeeping missions are solely for nearly failed states – they arent (there are multiple forms of PKOs, some for environmental reasons, some for political reasons, some for post-conflict regions, and some for election monitoring. And not all are actually through the UN. If you want more info, I’ll be happy to elaborate later!) And didn’t realize that states are often the ones to ask the Security Council to create a peacekeeping mission within the state’s borders. 
Afterwards I also had a chance to approach Brown Weiss regarding her inclusion of contentious scientific topics within her Kaleidoscope theory. It actually was really good – I ended up getting a chance to tell her about my work with MY World and about recent papers on the science theories she talks about. And I was absolutely SHOCKED when she asked me to email her more information about both. But again – this is an academy for sharing information about important international law concepts, so it should have been expected right? Still… super cool and unexpected.

P.S. Dad – I keep realizing how much random knowledge I have. And how other people don’t have random knowledge. Because I am too nerdy for my own goodπŸ€“. And also I’m still alive.

Day 8

It happened again. Super interesting afternoon lecture. Definitely wanted to attend. Only problem? It was 3 hours long…
Court clerks for the Permanent Court of Arbitration came to speak to us today. And, taking the example of the ICJ lecture yesterday, they were very interactive and entertaining. But y’all, three hours😩. I lasted one hour before I was struggling to keep my eyes open. Instead of being super disrespectful and falling asleep, I chose to leave my iPad with my flatmates so they could continue recording the lecture for me (I plan on re-listening to all the lectures later, and hopefully writing better notes than my sleep-deprived self has) – and I went back to nap. But this time I did not stay up super late afterwards. (Midnight isn’t late right?)
Also, y’all, I have finally found a dish that I can cook that is actually good!! Beef and brocooli – boil both in a pot with a bottle of oyster sauce with a bit of soy sauce added in. And eat on a bed of rice. Super easy, probably doing it completely wrong, but it is edible! And thats all that matters in a place where a weeks worth of groceries cost $20 but a single meal out costs $25…

P.S. Dad – a little bit less sleepy, and actually eating decent food! So not starving to death anymore 😁

Day 7

Today was a long day. We had lectures in the morning – System of Reparations in the Jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; then Economic Sanctions Outside of the UN; then Norms in a Kaleidoscopic World. After a short lunch break, it was back to lecture, listening to ‘Diplomacy, more Necessary than Ever’ by a former Dutch Diplomat. And after, court clerks for the ICJ Judges gave a two hour interactive seminar on a hypothetical case before the ICJ (regarding a dispute over one state’s inability to stop smuggling of tobacco into another state – so pretty interesting hypothetical). 
My intention had been to attend both of these lectures – they both originally seemed incredibly interesting to me. But after a week at the Academy, I have learned one thing – I’m really not interested in the work of the ICJ….  Its super important, and most people find the cases super interesting, but to be honest, if I am going to work for the UN – I’m going to work as a diplomat or as a member of staff within the secretariat. Working on disputes about how to interpret treaties? I’d definitely rather write the treaties. So, after listening to 50 minutes of the former Diplomat explaining how currently the international diplomatic stage is disturbingly horrible and ominous (with about 10minutes of suggestions of how to avoid a WWIII afterwards), I decided it was time for a desperately needed nap (y’all, I dont think I’ve gotten more than 5hrs sleep a night since this program started. I’m EXHAUSTED 😩)
After a brilliant nap, my flatmates and I decided to go on a night-time walk along the beach – and promptly fell so in love with night walks along the beach that we have pledged to do one every night (though, lets be honest, we are all so tired, I’m not optimistic that this pledge will be fulfilled. But we’ll try!) To end our night, we stopped by the communal balcony party, as always, and were immediately reminded why we never get enough sleep. (And we ended up staying up so late that the nap only made up for the sleep I missed tonight alone… Oh well, sleep is for the dead, right? I feel like I have written this before recently…)
P.S. Dad – I’m surprised I have enough energy left to wake up in the morning, but I’m still alive.

Day 6

Today was pretty jam packed. From the first lecture in the morning (on Reparations in Jurisprudence in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights) to the second lecture being taught by the Academy’s Secretary General (on Economic Sanctions Outside of the United Nations) to the afternoon lecture on the International Criminal Court by a Judge of the ICC to arriving home to find my flat’s kitchen full of random people cooking a tradition Indian dinner for over 20 people. It was just…a LOT. 
On top of all of this, I also spent about 3 hours in the Library today researching Biological Weapons – turns out, there are a TON of free library resources on the Biological Weapons Convention and possible ways to reform how the internaitonal community addresses Biological Weapons. So basically heaven for me. I ended up downloading about 40 different articles on multiple different topics, all of which will be read as soon as possible because I am super interested in them. Between classes, reading and socializing, there really is no time for sleep.
My flatmates and I (minus Suran, who was going to the Indian party) all decided to have a semi-chill night and went to the upstairs lounge in our flat to work/read/be productive. But that only lasted about an hour before we all ended up gettin dragged to join the other students in the never-ending communal balcony party. And while we said we would go to bed at midnight, it more like 1am before we even got to our flat again… Oh well, sleep is for the weak anyway, right?
P.S. Dad – Still alive. Still not coming home. The library has enchanted me. It is my life now.

A Nerd in my Natural Environment

Because we are so close to many interesting cities, and because many people here have never been to Europe or may never come back to Europe, the majority of the students of the academy have decided that to spend their weekends raveling around Europe. Me, on the other hand, I spend my weekends sitting in the Peace Palace Library reading as much as possible while it is open on Saturday, then take books home to read on Sunday. πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚πŸ€“

It is basically the perfect life for a nerd. My flatmates spent the weekend in Paris celebrating Bastille Day, or exploring Amsterdam and spending a night on a houseboat (because obviously that is what you have to do in Amsterdam). And I spent my morning getting lost on my way to the Peace Palace (which is super sad because I should know the way after 5 days of coming here every morning), then eventually finding my way to the library to read books on United Naitons Peacekeeping Operations, and accountability of the UN missions. 
Sooooo – I may be too much of a nerd for my own good. But ya’ll, this library is amazing!! It is the largest international law library in the world, which has led to me setting a policy that I take out one new book every two days, and try my hardest to read as much as possible of each of them before trading each book in for a new one. My current book of the day: “Absense in Sicence, Security and Policy: From Research Agendas to Global Strategy.” Best part? Surprisingly, one of the sections in the book is actually written by a North Carolina State University professor! AKA I’m totally going to try to contact her to talk about Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction when I’m back state-side 😁😁😁😁

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive. And may never come home. The library is my new home now. So. Many. Books. 😍

Day 5

Classes ended today at 12:30pm. And while there was an optional seminar from 2pm-3:30pm, my roommates and I were disinterested in the topic to be discussed so we decided to visit the International Criminal Court (ICC) instead. Best. Decision. Ever.

 

Since it was more of a spur of the moment decision, none of us had our passports with us – something you are normally required to have to enter the ICC compound. But THANKFULLY, the security guards recognized the badges from our program and ended up being super nice and lenient with us, accepting our drivers licenses instead. When you visit the ICC, there is a audioguide tour you can take which explains the basic ins and outs of the court. But seeing as I am the definition of a UN (and therefore ICC) nerd, I already knew much of the material taught in the tour. (For those who do not know much about it, 10 out of 10, would recommend!)

 

Now, here is the cool thing you can do at the ICC – if there isΒ any court sessions currently going on, you are allowed to watch them from above in the viewing section! There are currently three cases before the ICC this week – Gbagbo and Ble Goude; Ongwen; and Ntaganda. Every case except the last had already been adjourned for the day, so we ended up with only one choice – but honestly, seeing any case before the ICC is so amazing I will literally never complain.

 

Here is how you know I am a nerd – both of my flatmates there with me are already in law school (one recently graduated, and the other is a year away from graduating). Both have already done criminal law cases. And both were close to falling asleep at the tediousness of the progress of the trial. Then you have me, only just studying for my LSAT exam, and smiling like a child at a candy store as I try to deduce why the prosecutor is trying to establish which position Ntaganda held during the Congolese conflict. When he got frustrated at the prosecutor’s attempt to mix him up (in his words, “Madam, you are twisting my words”), I was utterly enthralled with the turn of events. My flatmates on the other hand…not so much.

 

While both believed it was really interesting and cool to be attending an ICC hearing, neither of the girls hung on every word like I did. Which is understandable – both have studied national criminal law, but neither have studied international criminal law. But my experiences in Security Council through Model UN have caused me to have a deeper understanding of the international criminal law system used by the ICC (cue flashbacks to having to explain what Rule of Law was All. Freaking. Conference.Β Or that one time I brought in a textbook to clearly show that the ICJ and the ICC are completely different things.)

Lesson learned – I may be too much of a nerd about the ICC. But either way. Today was awesome. I’m in heaven. And I’m definitely going to try to go see some more cases!

 

P.S. Dad – I’m alive, and I think I may want to be a prosecutor in front of the ICC someday!

Day 4

One by one, we are going down like flies. Yesterday it was Ramina who was ill, today it is Tringa and Avital, and Caitlin and I can feel the tickle forming in our throats. The reality of this summer course is very similar to that of the Model UN conferences I attended – you travel long distances to attend a conference in which you are occupied from early in the morning until late at night, and once you are free you inevitably socialize with the other attendees until the early hours of the morning. 

The result is a body which has been exposed to many germs during our train/plane/bus rides to the conference/academy, whose immune system becomes compromised by the lack of sleep and the intense schedule we live for a week (in Model UN) or three weeks (for this academy).
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore both Model UN and the Hague Academy. They are both activities which I am extremely grateful to be able to participate in. The question is, though, how many of us will make it to every class – which is unfortunate, because the academy has some of the most prestigious lectures I have ever had the honor to hear. (My favorite lecturer who speaks about treaties, for example, is a Commissioner of the International Law Commission – a division of the United Nation’s Office of Legal Affairs.) Only time will tell.
Favorite part of the day: Taking a boat trip around the canals in Leiden, then exploring the city with some friends afterwards. And the nightly communal balcony party (which keeps lasting way to late into the night. Staying up until midnight for the 3rd night in a row definitely did not help my cold…)
P.S. Dad – I may be sick, but I am still alive.