Week 1: Welcome to Prague!

I have spent my first full week in Prague, Czech Republic, and I have fallen in love - with the city, the people, and, most importantly, my work with the CEELI Institute. 

I arrived last Saturday, bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, to Havlíčkovy sady, a gorgeous park that houses both CEELI and my apartment for the summer. After settling in, I set out to explore the neighborhood surrounding the park. Havlíčkovy sady is located in the Vinohrady district. Vinohrady is Czech for 'vineyard', as this area has housed vineyards since the 14th century. In fact, there is a beautiful and functioning vineyard right in my backyard! The Vinohrady district has amazing shops and cafes - I've found about 100 coffee shops I have to try over the next two months.

On Monday, I started my work at CEELI. After meeting the team, about 10 full-time employees and one other intern, I set down with my boss to discuss my goals and research for the summer. My first project is in-depth research into the judicial lustration practices of former communist/authoritarian countries in central/eastern Europe. Judicial lustration is used when a country is transitioning from conflict or authoritarianism to democracy - it is a way to vet public employees of the past administration to see if they are fit to keep their employment in the new, democratic administration. The vetting generally looks for patterns or signs of human rights abuses and, for my research, focuses on members of the judiciary. It's a fascinating topic that I've already learned a ton about in the short week I've been here! I'm excited to see where my research takes me.

I also sat in on conferences and meetings taking place throughout the week. My personal favorite was with a group of Floridians who are traveling in Europe to raise awareness for their 'Therapy Dogs in Courtrooms' initiative, a program that allows therapy dogs to help child-victims and witnesses testify in courtrooms. The idea is that the dogs provide a comforting, non-intimidating presence to which the children can tell their story. CEELI's work ranges so far, from human rights to the rule of law and peacemaking endeavors. It was nice to see how truly varied and widespread their work can be!

This past weekend I explored the Old and New Town areas of Prague - this is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I can't wait to see what more Prague and the Czech Republic have to offer!