Home » Academics » Intellectual Life » Research Centers » Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding » Voices from the Field: Student Summer Blogs » Emily Benz

Bon Voyage

Stockholm, Sweden. These two simple words carry so much emotional meaning for me now. I admit that I never imagined myself in this far off city. The only thing I really knew about Sweden is that Vikings came from somewhere around there, and that they have socialized medicine. Blind and in the dark, I accepted an internship with an organization based in Stockholm. Some thought I was crazy, others reckless, and some thought I was possessed by equal parts madness and inspiration. I applied for the job on a whim. There I was, sitting in a large classroom, watching a presentation on how to be a good summer employee, thinking that the slideshow was useless for someone who was just going to be a research assistant. I was going to sit in the library or out in the lawn reading a book all day. What did I need to know about office etiquette? Then, Dean Kaplan comes up to me after the program and tells me that Professor Warren is looking for an intern with an international constitution and democracy building organization based in Stockholm, Sweden. He tells me that he thinks with my international expereince and background in international affairs that I would be a good candidate for the job. It is almost like he was reading my mind. I had been concerned for a while that a research position, while certainly interesting and a great opportunity, was simply not enough. My classmates were not only research assistants, but also prosectuing interns or firm interns or interns for NGOs. I wanted something cool for my resume. I wanted the job experience. I wanted to keep up with my peers. I was afraid for my future, so I took a leap of faith and told Dean Kaplan that I was interested. There was a catch, he told me. I had to apply quickly because he wasn't sure how long the position would be open. In fact, it would be best if I applied by the end of the day. I went into panic mode, but I managed to create a cover letter and tailored resume, prepare a writing sample, and send it to Professor Warren by 5 that evening. In fact, I was so fast that Professor Warren scheduled an interview for the very next day. It was short, simple, and clean, but the interview left me nervous. I was well tailored to the job. I had worked and lived abroad, spoke fluent French, and studied the area of international law and politics. But it was all very overwhelming. Professor Warren wanted to know that I would accept the position if offered it before she submitted my name to the institution, and she wanted my answer by the next day. There was so much to do and know, money had to be sorted, and I had to get some clue about Stockholm. Added to that was the complication that I had already committed to a research assistant position. Thankfully, Professor Warren managed to stall for the weekend, and the Professor I was going to be researching for gave me her blessing to work abroad. All the pieces fell into place, I got the job, and I even managed to get an apartment in one of the toughest housing markets in the world. Everything was ready, except for me.

So here I am, on the eve of my journey to Stockholm. I bought new clothes so I can fit in with the trendy Europeans. I packed my bags and bought some travel books. I even managed to fit everything into two suitcases. There is just one problem: it hasn't hit me yet. I spent all day wondering how that could be so. I tried to get myself into the spirit by going to see Thor at the theater. I thought Vikings would do the trick. Not so, Mr. Thor, not so. In the midst of finals and packing and the journal write-on competition, I just didn't get the time to research Stockholm. I am about to embrak on a great journey, I am going to be working for a great organization, and I am going to finally be working in the field that has been my passion since high school. But it has all happened so fast and so unexpectedly that I cannot seem to decide whether excitement or nerves should win out, so the end result is a kind of restless waiting. I can't look back, and I can't see well enough to look forward, so I am stuck in limbo, waiting for the moment when I realize that this is all really happening. Maybe it will be when I say goodbye to my parents. Maybe it will be when I get on the plane. Maybe it won't be until I get off the plane the next morning. It may well be that it won't hit me until well into my stay when i can finally sit back and go "whoa, is this really my life?" They say that the real pleasure in life, the thing that really matters, is not the destination but the journey. I am about to test that theory. Wish me bon voyage!