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. ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿค“

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 ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive. And may never come home. The library is my new home now. So. Many. Books. ๐Ÿ˜

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 isย 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.ย 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. 

Day 3

This morning was a struggle. On top of toast in the oven nearly catching on fire and a sensitive fire alarm going off when a flatmate was cooking eggs, everyone was dead tired from staying up so late last night. Our kitchen looked like a food tornado had blown in from the night before, taking 20 of our precious morning minutes to clean up. Even worst, one of our flatmates (Romina) got a fever from the long flight over and extreme lack of sleep (MUN plague strikes again! Only this time minus the Model UN conference…)

Not a single one of us were ready when the alarm went off to leave the apartment. And looking outside we saw the dreary reality we would face today: a Vancouver-style state of grey has descended upon the city of the Hague, dropping inch upon inch of freezing water down from the sky. Our shoes have been reduced to soggy scraps of fabric ensuring our feet remain perpetually drenched. It is no wonder Romina is sick; the weather is absolutely morbid.

Nevertheless, we traipsed out to the tram stop – thankfully arriving at the Palace with 15 minutes to spare before lecture, which allowed us (or at least me!) to down two cups of the delicious brown caffeinated liquid which fuels my life. The number one thing I am grateful for today: packing a lunch so I can stay in the academy all day and the soggy scraps of fabric on my feet have a chance to dry!

Favorite part(s) of the day: Going to the library for the first time (its beautiful!); sitting in on a seminar discussing treaties and their practice; and attending a reception at town hall with the full academy!

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive, and I went to bed early(ish) for once.

Day Two

Well… It happened again… Classes start at 9:20am, so we thought ‘it takes 20minutes to get there; if we leave at 8:30am, that will give us plenty of time.’ Nope. Our false sense of security meant we didn’t leave until 8:45am, barely missing our tram and causing us to wait 10minutes for the next one.
9:15am: the tram arrives at the Peace Palace. In the mad dash to the palace security gate, we lost two of our flatmates in the crowd. But thankfully myself and another flatmate, Caitlin (from Ottawa), got to the academy with 3 minutes to spare. Romina (also from Ottawa) and Tringa (from London) were not so lucky… Tringa was able to get into the main lecture hall and grab a seat behind Caitlin and I before the lecture began; however, Romina arrived one minute later, and was banished to the overflow room upstairs until the 2nd lecture began an hour later…

Lesson learned: Leave at EXACTLY 8:30am, otherwise we will be doomed to sit in the seats without a desk, and be forced to write our lecture notes on notebooks in our lap…
Favorite part of the day: The lecture on the ICJ by one of the ICJ judges; and the giant party held tonight on our communal balcony, though I will be surprised if anyone is able to wake up in the morning!

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive. Super tired, but alive.

The First Day

The program began today. We woke up at 6:30am, dressed in our finest business attire, and set out for the Peace Palace (where the program is held) – only to discover we were hopelessly late. Apparently everyone else is more of keeners than we are… Most people left for the Palace at 7am to beat (or rather form) the gigantic line to obtain our security badges. 
Now, because of jet lag, I will add we did leave ‘late’ (8:30ish), but none of us realized we would be one of the last 30 people to arrive – especially since the program doesn’t start until 11am! 
Lesson learned – the majority of the people attending the program are bigger keeners than us! (Or maybe they just like mornings more…)
Best part of the day: Our afternoon lecture on treaties and their rise and decline in importance in the international sphere โค๏ธ Y’all know I was nerding out HARD during that lecture! And also the evening drinks with the attendees was pretty fun, minus the super crowded bar…
P.S. I haven’t died yet, Dad.

Off to the Hague

My weekend adventure in Amsterdam ended today. As my program in the Hague begins tomorrow, I got up, got breakfast at the cafe from yesterday, then took the train to Den Haag (The Hague) – the capital of international law. There are about 350 people in the program I am attending, so we are basically everywhere. Inevitably, I ran into a really sweet girl on the train (I explored Amsterdam this weekend with another girl from the program), and together we taxied to our home for the next 3 weeks.

The hotel has a series of single-sex apartments with 8 rooms of 2 people each, 4 bathrooms, and a kitchen to share between the 16 of us (plus a giant communal balcony for literally every room in the hotel). Each room is assigned by country – and I’ve been placed with the Canadians ๐Ÿ˜‚ (plus 3 pretty awesome girls from the UK, Mexico and Peru.) 

Off to a pretty good start!
P.S. I’m still alive Dad. And have been adopted (again) as an honorary Canadian ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

Wandering Amsterdam

Today was a pretty interesting beginning to my Netherlands adventure. The last time I was in Amsterdam, I had a very strict schedule. With only 48 hours to see the city, I got an IAMsterdam card (totally recommended by the way!) and saw as many amazing things as possible – like the Anne Frank Haus and the Microbe Museum. This trip, however, I wanted to have more time to randomly explore. So at 10am, I went to a breakfast cafe recommended by the amazing Brenda (thanks girl! It was SUPER delicious!), then wondered my way back to my hostel. 
My number one recommendation for anyone coming to Amsterdam – have a schedule, see as many of the incredible museums and parks as possible, but make sure to budget an afternoon to wander aimlessly in the streeets and just observe the city! Trust me – you will NOT regret it! ๐Ÿ˜ 

(Also, side note, take a cruise or two around the canal. They are super informative and fun, and different boat companies give different cool facts! Its a great way to learn more about the history and archetecture of the city!)

P.S. Dad – still alive, and still haven’t been too high to find my hostel! Sister – 1; Brother – 0

The Ultimate Juxtaposition

A little over 8 months ago, I visited Amsterdam as the second city in my two-month tour of Europe (Reykjavik was the first). In one of the strangest stories from my trip, I ended up staying at a Christian hostel in the heart of the Red Light District which specifically stated at check in: “If you are found to be drunk or high, we will kick you out.” So basically the opposite of what you expect in Amsterdam.
In the ultimate juxtaposition, guess where I am staying this time round in Amsterdam? A hostel whose parent company owns both a GIANT coffee shop AND a HUGE pub steps away from my hotel room. With a second pub that opens at 10am and closes at 4pm on the first floor of the hostel. Pretty much the entire street along the canal is devoted to the pubs and coffee shops owned by the parent company. And the entire place reeks of the smell of Vancouver. Soooo, basically the polar opposite of the hostel 8 months ago.  
Because why would that juxtaposition not exist in my life?
P.S. Dad – Don’t worry, I’m not going to be like my brother and get so high I can’t find my hotel room. And I’m still alive.

European Rainstorms

In North Carolina, thunder storms are the most common form of weather during the summer. In Europe? Not so much.
While waiting for my rebooked flight in Paris, I discovered this fact as a fairly-basic-southern-style-thunderstorm rolled in – and promptly delayed all the flights. I didn’t mind, I had found one of my favorite coffee shops from my 2 months in Europe, and had met a very nice girl from NC who was traveling with her 6 month old King Charles Cavalier (obviously I was drooling over the adorable and amazingly well behaved puppy). What is another storm when we had just had one like it on the 4th of July before I left America?
Fast forward about 12 hours. After checking into my hotel, washing the plane germs off my body, and being too tired to get dressed before I passed out for 4 hours, I finally opened my suitcase. Only to discover all of my clothes were soaked completely through. 
From what I can deduce, the storm hit too fast for the airport employees to put the luggage in an area that would keep it dry (or the employees were too inexperienced with storms to realize that was something they should do?) THANKFULLY!!! All of my electronics were in my carry-on bags, and there was nothing that couldn’t get wet in the soaked area of my bag… But lesson learned – even hardcover suitcases can have water leak in and drench everything! ๐Ÿ˜– 
P.S. Dad – My clothes are soaked, but I’m still alive.

The life, thoughts, and travels of an adventurous ginger.