Wait, I’m in Germany Now?

Guten Tag,

Hey y’all. I realize I’ve been a little slow on the updates, so I wanted to fill ya in on where I’m at now. I completed the first two weeks of my internship in Kosovo, then flew to Germany to complete my international economic law study away program. I’m earning 6 credits in 6 weeks, and honestly sometimes the class time is overwhelming. But, so far, I really really love it. I will say that taking venture capital law has made me reconsider a life in law and instead consider a shift from corporate transaction law  into venture capital or investment banking…….that’s where the real $$$ is. We’ll see I suppose.

Anyways. I am in Germany starting week 4 of my 6 week program. I am taking: European and World Trade Organization Law, Venture Capital Law, German and European Company Law, International Investment Law, and Law and Economics. I love all of my classes so far, and I’d be happy to share some fun facts if you’re interested. You’re probably not interested but I’m high key a nerd about law and economics and I love to chat about it. In fact, my best friend who’s currently in Florida right now was kind enough to help explain capital increases to me at 6:30 A.M. his time because I got out of class at 12:30 and needed to talk through my notes. Thanks fam! (Get you a bestie like that, y’all!)

Shifting gears away from the academic side of my time in Germany…..I’m in the Bavarian region of Germany attending the University of Augsburg and it is beautiful. MY neighborhood is extremely cute, and looks exactly like a Disney movie set in an old Dutch town. Funnily enough, much of Bavaria actually looks a lot like my hometown in Alabama. There are tons and tons of rolling green fields and farm equipment and long winding roads. Augsburg is the opposite of urban Berlin; there’s green space everywhere here and even walking through the city downtown you’ll find children at the edge of ponds feeding the ducks. It’s definitely a nice change of pace from the urban center of Pristina in Kosovo. I’ll try and do a better job of taking pictures here in Augsburg and will be adding those soon.

Food is different here than in Kosovo….and both are different than in the U.S. I think the Greek yogurt is fantastic in Kosovo, and that the chocolate and bakery items in Germany are divine. But to be honest….I don’t really think the food is better here than in the U.S. Everything tastes slightly different. It’s hard to explain, but even American food doesn’t taste like American food in Germany or in Kosovo. Granted, I haven’t made a huge effort to seek out Bavarian food because I’ve been saving money. My professor from undergrad was kind enough to take me to a real German restaurant in Berlin, though, and I thought that food was delicious. We ordered a sampler platter and split it:

It included: mini sausages, thick hollow noodles grilled and filled with cheese, a thinner noodle covered with with a cheesy sauce, and a mix of lentils and seasoning. It was all served with a side of spicy mustard and a mushroom cream sauce (both of which were AMAZING)

So, I did think this meal was pretty delicious, but that has been the exception.  Any Germans/travelers to Germany have any recommendations for me to enjoy the culinary experience of Germany more? Maybe foods to buy and cook myself? Tips would be much appreciated.

I ALSO JUST GOT BACK FROM MY VISIT TO LONDON THIS WEEKEND! I’m still excited. (In case the caps didn’t hip you to my excitement.) Look out for my posts about that soon. I’m absolutely in love with London.

Lastly, one of my other best friends will be coming to visit me in July, and he will definitely make me take lots of pictures. We’ll be sightseeing here around Augsburg, going to see a Bavarian castle and also spending some time in Zurich, Switzerland. Stay tuned for those stories.

As always, feel free to leave questions/comments/suggestions below.

Ciao,

X0X0-Legal Belle

Feelin’ Like a Hypocrite: Interning for USAID While the U.S. Commits Human Rights Violations Here at Home

Hello/Hallo/Guten Tag,

It’s been too long since we last met. I’ve had a lot of words floating around in my head, but I’ve just really sucked at making myself sit down to write about them. Alas, I’ll do better in the coming weeks, and I promise to blog at least once a week from here on out (and I will plan to write at least three times a week; sometimes life just gets in the way.)

So, this blog is going to be a little different. At times it gets a little heavy, and might make you a little uncomfortable. But, I warned you that sometimes I’d be sharing my political commentary and thoughts about the goings on in the world. That’s what this is.

If you came to this post to learn tips and tricks about law school and legal internships, or just to check in on my activities abroad, this one might not be for you. I won’t be upset if you click off. But, I do hope you’ll stay, and share your thoughts and comments below because this is something that’s been weighing on my soul the last few weeks.

If you’ve been following my blog so far, then you know I am completing my legal internship in Kosovo. I am interning for the United States Agency for International Development’s Justice System Strengthening Program. So, I’m in Kosovo (actually right this second I’m in Germany for my study abroad program, but I’ll be back in Kosovo soon) interning for a project whose goal is to strengthen the justice system and the rule of law in Kosovo. When reflecting on this mission, I am simultaneously very proud to be doing what I believe truly is good work, and quite disgusted that the U.S. government is running around in Kosovo helping to strengthen their justice system when it’s so obvious we are having a moral breakdown over the application of rule of law within our own country.

We’re literally pulling breastfeeding babies away from their mothers at the border and throwing them in separate detention centers that look like internment camps……and yet somehow we’re qualified to aid Kosovo in strengthening its justice system? What a joke.

Now, of course, the rational part of me knows that this is a gross oversimplification. I know that the people on the ground in USAID are good people. The people in my program are good people. They sought out government employment to work in international development because they felt they could promote good and positive change in the world by spreading democratic ideals. I know these people, these individuals, are separate from the institution. I know that even the institution of USAID is separate from the federal government in that its everyday operations are not dictated by President Trump or by Jeff Sessions, and that their immigration decisions and other U.S. justice system failings in reality have nothing to do with the work I’m doing.

But….sometimes it’s extremely difficult to note this separation. I’ve met with various stakeholders in Kosovo while researching my project on judicial responses to domestic violence, and most officials I’ve met with have extreme reverence for the United States. They’ve visited Atlanta, NYC, LA, or even parts of North Carolina in order to attend conferences and trainings relevant to their fields. They were so excited to talk to me about the immense improvements they’ve made since the war, and almost moreso to tell me about the developments they wish to emulate from the United States. They loved sharing what they learned from a city in North Carolina that was doing amazing things to re-integrate DV victims, and that they hoped to implement similar measures in Kosovo. They loved talking about how Kosovo was finally developing something similar to our Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and what a difference that would make in their judicial system.

And while my first reaction is always one of pride, and maybe slight embarrassment at how much some people seem to fan girl over our legal system…..a slow, uneasy feeling always creeps up immediately after, and I can’t help but want to point out all of our failings as well. Yes, that city in North Carolina is doing a spectacular job in handling its domestic violence cases. But, it wouldn’t need to if domestic violence wasn’t such a prevalent issue, and regardless of that, the systems and programs they use are certainly not the norm of the United States as a whole.

In fact, in the United States, the number of American women murdered by a current or ex partner between the years 2001-2012 was 11,766. The number of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during that time was 6,488. That means nearly twice as many women were murdered by their partners on our soil than there were casualties of war abroad during this time.  1 in 4 American women will suffer severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during her lifetime. 1 in 3 American women will suffer rape, physical violence, or stalking from an intimate partner during her lifetime. These numbers are devastating, and they leave us in a place no better than Kosovo in regards to domestic and gender based violence.

So, domestic violence isn’t just an issue in Kosovo. It’s a huge issue in the United States. Their judicial system glitches aren’t unique to them, either. One huge barrier to proper sentencing in Kosovo is judicial attitudes towards victims of domestic violence/victim blaming. This is also an issue in the U.S. Remember how Brock Turner was only sentenced to 6 months (and released from jail after only serving 3) for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster? Yeah, that was a judicial failing due to judicial attitudes about men and their place in society vs women who suffer violence. Thi case is not a unique one in the United States; men are let off every day with short or suspended sentences even after it’s proven they were physically or sexually abusive. Protective orders are violated in the United States just like in Kosovo. We share many of the same issues in this area.

Knowing this makes its hard to return the smile of captains who say they have far to go, but that they’re striving to catch up with the U.S. I’m damn proud to be an American, and yet, these sentiments don’t fill me with pride. In fact, they often make me cringe. It’s not my hope that they catch up to the U.S. It’s my hope that they do better. Because unfortunately, in this area,  we are not currently in a place to set the standard. I hope that we soon will be. I know that we can be. But I know we must do better, and that it’s not just Kosovo’s justice system that needs to be strengthened.

“Patriotism can be good or bad. Knee-jerk patriotism can be very bad. I’m patriotic almost to the point of self consciousness, but I love my country the way I love a friend or child who I would correct if she was going the wrong way. Who I expect the very best from.”-Emmylou Harris

 

 

 

So, Why Am I In Kosovo Exactly?

So, Why Am I In Kosovo Exactly?

Glad you asked. Law students are expected to take legal internships both summers during their 3 years of law school, and her I am already at summer number one! Finding employment your first summer can be mildly difficult, since most large firms are looking for 2Ls, i.e. they don’t want to train and pay a 1L who might go on to work for someone else after graduation; they want to wait until your second summer to initiate the “2L summer marriage relationship”. So, most 1Ls will intern in unpaid positions, either public interest, or with judges. Some will be lucky enough to be paid hourly working in-house counsel (Shout out to my bestie Haley @ Fedex!) or working for small or boutique firms.

The legal internship search is stressful and anxiety inducing, and my advice to all of you potential law school students is to breathe, get organized, and start applying early. It can be rough, but if you put in the effort you’ll find something. That’s what your career services office is there for. Anyways, I digress.

I was lucky enough to be connected with a potential position with USAID through my law school’s Center for International Legal Education. I am interested in practicing within the realm of international business law, and I had never been abroad before, so I thought I should talk to the CILE about potential internship opportunities outside the U.S.

So, I forwarded my application materials, was nominated by the CILE as an applicant to USAID, and had a Skype interview with the good folks at the Justice System Strengthening Program (JSSP) office here in Kosovo. I guess they liked me because here I am!

The JSSP office does exactly what it sounds like; it works on strengthening the effectiveness of the judiciary and the rule of law in Kosovo. Kosovo officially declared its independence from Serbia 10 years ago, and building up its court system has taken time and resources from both USAID and EULEX.

So what exactly am I doing here? Welp, I am working as a legal research intern for JSSP, and I am jump-starting their project on domestic violence. So, right now I am analyzing the legal framework relating to crimes involving domestic violence and relating to the economic rights of women that have an impact on the vulnerability of women and children. I’m also analyzing actual responses by the judiciary that affect women’s rights and the safety of women and children in order to identify options for improving the capacity of the judiciary to ensure the protection of women’s rights in Kosovo.

That was a mouthful. But, I’m very thankful to be here, and to be working on a project that is so meaningful. Like my girl Hillary said, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and anything I can do to promote this understanding is good work in my book. So I’m thankful to be doing good work.

My internship is split in half; I’m finishing up my second week right now, and I will be flying to Germany this weekend to participate in a 6 week international commercial law study abroad program. Then I will be headed back here to Kosovo for the last 6 weeks of summer in order to complete my internship.

So far, I have mostly spent my time familiarizing myself with the legal system of Kosovo, its Constitution, and the relevant laws, regulations, and stakeholders involved with cases of domestic violence. I must say it’s been a legal whirlwind. If you ever have some free time, you should check out the Kosovo Constitution. It’s actually extremely unique, much more progressive and rights inclusive than the U.S. Constitution, and is the only Constitution in the world to protect rights based on gender identity. Pretty cool stuff. I’ll explain more about the laws of Kosovo in another post, so keep a look out for that if it sparks your interest.

So these two weeks have been full of research and interviews with various stakeholders, and meeting with these people has truly been amazing. I’ve interviewed juvenile, criminal, and civil court judges, researchers for Kosovo’s Women’s Network, and the Captain of the Domestic Violence Investigative Unit of Kosovo. Most of these interviews were facilitated by a translator, and it has been a really unique and wonderful experience. Check out my #internationallyawkward post to read more about how it has also often been an awkward experience. (Totally because of me, I’m just freakin’ awkward and full of social anxiety.)

So, yeah. that’s where I’m at right now. Living life, gearing up for Germany, and working on my Albanian. Drop comments or questions below, and thanks for droppin’ by fam. ❤

Ciao.

Oh Hey Kosovo.

Pershendetje!

So, last Monday I arrived in Kosovo for my summer legal internship. I will be working for the United States Agency for International Development’s Justice System Strengthening Program (USAID/JSSP)

Boy, lemme tell you jet lag is a real bitch. I’m not someone who usually gets a lot of sleep anyway, so I assumed I would be fine showing up here then going to work 18 hours later, but boy was I wrong. It has taken me almost a week to get my sleep schedule right, and at one point I was literally in the office pulling my hair so that I wouldn’t fall asleep. That wasn’t awkward or anything.

Speaking of, I have decided I am #InternationallyAwkward because I am now officially awkward at home and abroad. Maybe I’ll post later just a running list of all the #internationallyawkward things I do. They are many.

I’m staying in this really cool place called the White Tree Hostel until I get an apartment. 10/10 would recommend.  The owner’s name is Hanna and she’s really great.  The White Tree is also a a terrace bar that’s beautiful, and has a white tree growing up right through the middle of it that’s covered in twinkle lights. It’s very nice to be able to sit outside on the terrace and hang out drink and eat.33897402_10216605198985882_8319439411418759168_n

So far I really enjoy Kosovo. The food is good, the people are nice, and the city of Pristina is cute and bustling and much more “Euro” than I expected. The streets are lined with cafes, everywhere has outdoor seating, and everyone walks and talks and sits outside.

Luckily for my crazy sleep schedule, Ramadan has begun, which means most businesses have switched to their extended summer hours, AKA my fave restaurant, Chick’n Pub, is open until 4 A.M. It’s also nice if I happen to be out and about around 8 pm because a ton of people are out for iftar, and I miss breaking the fast with my friend Hagar.

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Sometimes during my first week I was quite lonely. (More on that in another post.) Despite the friendliness of the people of Kosovo it’s hard to be somewhere surrounded by people speaking another language. I never catch glimpses of conversations on the street that I can understand, and I miss out on all of the office jokes because everyone in my office except the Chief of Party speaks Albanian all the time (except for when they speak directly to me, of course.) So, I feel pretty isolated sometimes. To further exacerbate those feelings, there’s a 6 hour time difference between here and home, which means no one is available to chat for a good part of my day, and I need to go to sleep when it’s still afternoon there.

Luckily, another student from Pitt Law is here working in another office, and she reached out to me last week. We’ve been hanging out pretty often and it is so nice to have someone to talk with! She also is a much more experienced traveler (and quite fearless) and I suspect that she’ll be dragging me on lots of adventures I might have otherwise missed. (I mean come on, I can barely navigate Pittsburgh with the use of google maps…I’m supposed to navigate to another country with no internet connection and a language barrier?) So, I’m excited for that.

All in all, Kosovo is treating me well. This was my basic “Oh hey I’m in Kosovo!” post. Check out my others to learn more about what the heck I’m actually doing here and my feelings and musings about the political climate/my being awkward/ and what it’s like to not speak the language.

Ciao.

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