I think the best word to describe the time between me leaving Vanderbilt Hall following my last exam this past May and walking back up its stairs for my 2L year is “whirlwind.” I am dedicating this post to NYU’s Martin Lipton Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Transnational Litigation, Arbitration, and Commercial Law, Linda J. Silberman, without whose support and encouragement none of my adventures would have been possible.
It was through Professor Silberman’s nomination that I was able to secure an internship working with the Secretariat at The Hague Conference on Private International Law. Thanks to the generous stipend organized through NYU’s Public Interest Law Center and paid for by White & Case, LLP, I was able to explore five countries in less than three months. I want to relate to the incoming 1Ls: you can, too!
Conveniently, this past June marked my parents’ 25th anniversary, so I was fortunate to have my family accompany me for the beginning of my European excursion (Griswold touristic photo op of the Levin clan pictured below). My adventure started in the sunny city of Barcelona. Amazing architecture, tapas for days, fiery flamenco, and sangria essentially on tap; my heart melts a bit every time I think about Barça. As a self-proclaimed lover of itineraries (I get it from my mama), I basically made sure my family and I had the chance to see all the highlights (La Sagrada Familia, Mercat de La Boqueria, a world-class flamenco show), but also lesser-known places like the stunning Palau de Musica Catalana, the Jamón Experience (where my mother proceeded to hit her head against a massive Iberian pork leg by somehow not spotting it in front of her), and the magnificent Hospital de Sant Pau (less hospital, more fairytale playground).
Moving from blissful Barcelona, we landed in chilly Den Haag (The Hague), where I met up with my summer roommate, fellow co-adventurer and colleague Ariel Rosenbaum (pictured on the right with me!). The actual pronunciation of “Den Haag” in Dutch is actually quite similar to how one would
imagine a cat would hack up a fur ball; such is the language of the Dutch, a slightly softer sister tongue of German (though you would NEVER want to say this to an actual Dutch person). The Hague itself is an odd little city. A much tamer, quieter, and more bookish cousin to Amsterdam (the eternal wild child), it is quite the sleepy town. However, what The Hague lacks in rowdiness and summer weather (oh, the irony of living near a beach that could never be used…) it more than makes up for in amazing legal resources. As the seat of the Dutch government, parliament, Supreme Court Council of State, the royal family, and over 150 international organizations, The Hague is truly the heart of international policymaking and justice. One need only refer to its motto: “Vrede en Recht” (Peace and Justice). Needless to say, it was pretty amazing to know that the HCCH office was located right next to the World Forum, Europol, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
After settling into our apartment (lovingly named “Riemkje” after our hostess) in Scheveningen (the beach area of the city), it was time for our first day at the HCCH Secretariat. Ariel and I were warmly welcomed, and, in only our second week at the Permanent Bureau, we had the good fortune of tabling for the Secretariat at HCCH’s Special Commission on the 1993 Intercountry Adoption Convention, hosted in the Peace Palace. Sitting in on the sessions of the Special Commission and being able to interact with the various delegates throughout the weeklong conference was a truly incredible experience.
All of that slightly made up for the misery of the NYU writing competition (a special ring of hell that Dante forgot to describe in his account). For the rest of my time at HCCH, I was able to work with some truly amazing staff members. I had the privilege of helping Attaché to the Secretary General Thomas John organize PB conferences on transnational commerce and rule of law platforms held in Trinidad and forthcoming in Kazakhstan, Jordan, and Qatar. Tom was an amazing mentor, and I feel fortunate to call him a personal friend now. Similarly, I was fortunate to be able to complete projects for First Secretary Marta Pertegás related to intellectual property and the commercial sphere, one of which included an independent study on the newly released Hague Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts (available here). My final assignment involved drafting a memo for the Secretary General, Christophe Bernasconi, in which I crafted a potential framework of procedural rules that would govern future HCCH Special Commissions and Meetings if the Council on General Affairs and Policy adopts it! **Fingers crossed** The work I was able to take on at HCCH was exceptional, and I learned so much from my esteemed colleagues while there (though I still don’t know how they tolerate the weather).
Some other highlights in my two months of living in the land of blue pottery, Gouda, bicycles, and herring lovers included visiting the adorable town of Delft (the hometown of NYU International Law Society’s co-president, Amy Tan!), sitting in on the ICTY trial of Ratko Mladić (former Bosnian Serb military leader known as the “Butcher of Bosnia”), introducing my colleagues to Holland’s ONLY Georgian culinary establishment, attending my first fashion show, accidentally purchasing and consuming horse sausage, traveling to Belgium and Germany, and, perhaps the most incredible, witnessing my roommate cry over her discovery that one of her store-bought eggs was sprouting feathers (guys, the Netherlands has the FRESHEST produce). The summer would not have been complete, however, without the amazing friendships I made with our fellow HCCH interns and young professionals, so a special thanks to Qian, Carrie, Justin, Laura, Frédéric, Brody, Derek, Salomé, Egor, Saeko, and Lena!
While I was sad to leave behind my colleagues, I would be lying if I said I was distressed to leave behind The Hague’s weather for the sunny beaches of Portugal’s Algarve coast. Some Vitamin D was necessary; I knew alabaster was not a good look for me going into EIW. Exploring the south of Portugal and Lisboa, my Romanian colleague, Laura, and I roamed three kilometers in 90-degree weather to find, arguably, the most beautiful beach in Europe, ate our weight in pastries, sampled many varieties of ginja (sour cherry liqueur), found the “Williamsburg” of Lisbon, narrowly avoided pickpocketing on the infamous Tram 28 (thanks to Laura’s Romanian fluency), and listened to the intoxicating sounds of Fado fill the air. Portugal, you captured my heart (and made me gain five pounds).
I don’t think this blog post can accurately capture just how many new experiences I was able to enjoy thanks to NYU PILC and Professor Silberman. I would highly recommend to any 1L interested in international law, civil procedure, commercial matters, and/or family law to seriously consider applying for this position. In the meantime, fall starts anew back here at NYU Law. While perhaps I’ve switched out my “Goedemorgen(s)” for “Good Morning(s)” and my raincoat for shorts, I will look back on my time at The Hague with the fondest of memories. Five countries, 12 cities/towns, 13 new international friends, and one incredible summer.