Friday, 1 February 2013

The Battle of the Midway

The end of the second quarter and the first semester – the midway point! The end of the semester means you actually have a week off while orientation for newly-arriving students takes place. A good opportunity to do a little traveling! And, a very welcome pause to review what has been accomplished and what lies ahead.

In American law schools, the saying is that the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you death, and the third year they bore you to death. The first year, you are overwhelmed with all the reading, learning legalese, living in dread of being called on in class to discuss that painfully long case that you either didn’t have time to read or did not understand no matter how carefully read. Condensing your hard-won knowledge into outlines with so many phrases highlighted in bright colors and so many notes scrawled in the margins that they resemble kindergarten collages. The second year you branch out into clinical programs on top of classwork. You spend even longer hours in the law library, sometimes falling asleep to awaken with impressions of spiral notebook bindings on your face. This is the midway point where you scratch your head and wonder what you were thinking when you decided to go to law school. But, too late to turn back and so on to the third year, where all you really want to do is graduate and get to work. And the ink is barely dry on your diploma when you have to start studying for bar exam. It can be the longest three years of your life!
An LLM in international law is far more condensed. The first quarter, they scare you to death with all that reading, learning even more complex legalese featuring all those Latin and French phrases. And you thought the program was in English! The second quarter they work you to death with an externship or clinical program as well as your classwork, and as your head nods over your keyboard in the wee hours, you again ask yourself what you were thinking. This is the battle of the midway, with the beginning barely over and the end barely in sight. But the beauty of studying in Utrecht is that you are in the company of fascinating people from all over the world in a city that keeps you smiling with all its cozy, quirky diversions. Travelling to The Hague, the hub of international law, for your externship never fails to excite. It is all so close, and you have learned so much. You already think like a lawyer, but now are learning to think like an international lawyer. Yes, there are two more quarters and a thesis to write, but it will all go too quickly for the luxury of boredom. At the midway point, you find that you have regained your confidence and expanded your world in so many ways. And through the haze of battle fatigue, victory beckons. Time to soldier on!

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