Autumn has settled over Utrecht, bringing with it sunny days, evening chills and glasses filled with seasonal ‘Bockbier’. Flowing summer dresses are replaced by long coats and woolly scarfs, but the pace of life and bikes remains the same. The Dutch are always on the go, meeting friends and making appointments around their packed schedules.
Of course, the best way to answer the question ‘Hoe gaat het met jou?’ (How are you) is always ‘Druk, druk’ meaning ‘Busy,busy!’
In line with this mentality, I have been keeping busy, busy all week. As week five of the semester begins, we are already passing the halfway point of the first block of classes. Whereas in undergrad, the month of October meant preparing for a midterm break and some Thanksgiving dinner, now it means gearing up for final papers and studying for class exams.
Each Friday the class workshop is set up to help us prepare for exams and hone our skills. Theoretical problems solved with group work, writing workshops and legal research guides make the next task and the upcoming exams a little less daunting.
With Utrecht being situated so close (only an hour train ride) to Den Haag (The Hague), there is also a lot to be learned outside the classroom. On Friday morning, the class took the short train ride to the city for an organized tour of the International Criminal Court.
Roaming the long white halls of the ICC, with large portraits of the Judges and Prosecutors of the Court, we learned the history of the Court and how it is run, from the most routine Registry work to the complexities of the Court. Stepping away from the classroom and the textbooks where we study the ICC in-depth, we saw what the Court is like in action and met the people whose decisions we have studied including Judge Van den Wyngaert.
While we didn’t get the opportunity to watch a hearing, due to a closed session, the trip left more than a few of my classmates dreaming of internships and jobs at the International Criminal Court, and visualizing the possibility that they could one day be leading tours of academic hopefuls around the building or have their portrait hanging on the walls.
Leaving the excitement of The Hague behind, there was just enough time to enjoy the last of the afternoon sunshine in Utrecht and stroll through the stalls of the city’s popular biological market.
Now, as I sit at my kitchen table, sipping a cup of tea from home in Ireland (yes, care packages with your favourites are key to international student life), my focus is on the Moot Court problem ahead, which is keeping my group, or ‘The Defense’, both nervous and determined.
While the rate of Skype calls to family and friends has dropped a bit lately, with one mid-week message from my mother asking ‘Are you alive?’, I like to take this as a positive sign that I’m not only settling in to this new city but content being ‘Zo bezig als een bij’ (busy as a bee) and setting my sights on far-off Christmas holidays.
Until the next time/ Tot de volgende keer!
|Human Rights and Criminal Justice LLM 2013-2014 with Judge Van den Wyngaert at the ICC|