Takeoffs and Landings

Joshua Alter | 10 June 2012 | The Hague, Netherlands |

Four weeks ago, I found out that I would be working in Europe this summer. So, it is a bit surreal that I just completed my first week of work. I am a Defence Intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). I work and live in The Hague, Netherlands.

Across the pond, I am a rising 3L and Managing Editor of the New York International Law Review (NYILR) and St. John’s Journal of International and Comparative Law (JICL). When Professor McGuinness explained the Field Notes concept in April, I thought it would be a great opportunity for the student correspondents. Only now, one week into my European adventure, do I realise just how special this opportunity is. Aside from keeping family, friends, and colleagues updated on my life, I am able to help prepare future students for working abroad.

The first, and most important, piece of advice I can offer is to network with other students working abroad. My seamless transition would not have been possible without the help of Andrew Zapata and Kristina Duffy, friends from my 1L section, who I have continued taking courses with as a 2L. When you head abroad knowing that you have a great support network, it makes life a lot easier. If you are going abroad, figure out if anyone else that you know will be working in that city. Ask friends and family if they know others working in that city. Having a support network already established in The Hague was the reason I had no qualms about getting on a plane less than three weeks after this opportunity arose. Not only were they able to assist me with housing, they also convinced me that I only needed one checked bag and that I needed a raincoat and umbrella. When you are trying to put everything together, especially at the last minute, this type of information is invaluable.

Working at the ICTY has been an amazing experience. My favourite chart in our office is the breakdown of nationalities of defence interns from 2010 – 2012. There have been close to 250 interns, representing around 50 countries. It is not uncommon to hear conversations that begin in French, continue in English, and end in Dutch. Working with lawyers and law students from different countries has been an enriching experience. This experience makes me even more excited for the Transnational Legal Studies LLM program that will begin at St. John’s this fall. I urge students to befriend this new group of LLM students, as they have so much to offer American law students.

Having studied abroad in the Middle East and Australia, I thought working in Europe would be a similar experience. However, unlike my studies abroad, I am no longer on an American “program.” Unlike those two experiences, I actually feel like part of the Dutch workforce, and not like an American who is merely visiting. I enjoy the feeling of getting ready for work, putting on my ICTY badge, and heading into the office.

I am also excited to learn about other students’ experiences through Field Notes. I am even more excited to know that come September, I will be able to share stories and experiences with the eight other students who decided to work abroad. And I am most excited for next summer, when the nine of us will be able to help the next batch of interns adjust to life outside of America.

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