Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Moot Mayhem, Family Visits & Marvelous Weather

Hi everyone,

This morning marks the end of the latest much-loved visits from my family, my second official day of work at the university as a student assistant and the true beginning of thesis time (perhaps best referred to as crunch time).

Last week was nothing but moot, moot and more moot as the Utrecht University team took part in the much-anticipated ICC Moot Court Competition 2014. After a few last-minute mooting sessions with guest judges, we packed our bags (filled to the brim with our smartest business clothes) and headed to The Hague for the start of the competition. After receiving the legal problem in November, submitting our written arguments in February, and practicing our moots until May, it all came down to the week of the competition.

The sun beamed all week as teams from 50 universities descended upon the Leiden University campus located in the center of the Hague to take part, network, and of course show off their extensive knowledge of international criminal law.

The competition is set up so that all 50 teams participate in the initial main rounds of the competition. Several mock court rooms are lined with three desks for each counsel – Prosecution, Defense, and Government – and a panel of three (inevitably intimidating) judges listen to pleadings and pose questions to test your ability to be flexible with the material and back up your point of view.

I acted as counsel for the Government of Southeros (the fictional country to which I’ve spent so long reciting a speech about that it’s hard to believe it’s not real) along with my researcher. The pleading of 20 minutes (including questions) is followed by a 10-minute rebuttal, with a short sticky-note infused scramble to prepare in between. Luckily, my researcher not only knew every piece of information, but had a colour-coded system to make sure I did too.

After three excellent oral rounds, well worth all of the work we had put in, we waited in anticipation for the results. Unfortunately, only the top 9 teams can advance to semi-finals (based on both written and oral rounds), and we didn’t get the chance to move forward. The exhaustion of late study nights combined with the competitive spirit of the competition made for a mixed reaction to the news – one part relief for not having to prepare all night for the next round and one part disappointment for not being able to show more of what we can do. It’s amazing how invested you can become in a fake legal problem.

Last minute preparation before the judges arrival in Court Room 2 - ICC Moot Court 2014
I was very lucky, on my day of speaking, to have our wonderful coach, my former teacher/thesis supervisor, my teammates and my parents backing me up. The feeling of delivering a practiced speech and dealing with off-putting questions as planned is one that can’t be beat. As an added bonus, I not only got to show my parents the beautiful cities in the Netherlands, but also got to celebrate at a the competition's beach-side barbecue event, enjoying the sunshine and meeting teams from all over the world. Once the initial competitive stiffness fades, the competition presents the opportunity to meet new people, make new contacts and dance the night away.

Utrecht University ICC Moot Court Team 2014
With the competition finished, I was able to spend the remaining days with my family, biking around Utrecht and showing off some of my favourite spots including the local jazz bar Oude Pothuys, a canal-side venue with free live music every night of the week. The city is in full swing for summer and pop-up music stands and festivals take place all over the centre of town so there is no shortage of things to do. On my student budget, as long as the sun is shining, I can be found in the park reading away the day with a book.

Fun festivities aside, the next few weeks are set to be a blur of work days and thesis deadlines. The final deadline is just shy of four weeks away, and those of us who did the Moot Court are feeling the pressure to make up for some lost time. Between now and the final draft, we get the opportunity to submit one chapter for review and in the meantime we must stitch together the issues promised in our thesis outlines.  As a final act of procrastination, I headed to my local Hema (a one-stop shop for everything you could need) yesterday afternoon to pick up a healthy supply of highlighters, pens and notebooks. Now, it really is time to buckle down and get to work.

It’s hard to believe it is only a few weeks away from the finish line and there is only one task left to complete. The official invite for graduation was sent this week, an extra piece of motivation to meet the thesis deadline and be able to graduate with the class I have spent all year studying alongside.

The usual rainy weather has settled back over the city, which is probably for the best as I focus on thesis and settling into my new job. Working at the university gives me the chance to study EU policy (a new subject area for me) and to take a break from my thesis research. Not to mention, I’ve upgraded my email address from to – officially making me a member of staff (at least for a little while).

Until next time/Tot de volgende keer,


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