As July turned to August, my summer with the CEELI Institute has slowly come to a close. When I spent a summer in Prague for the first time five years ago (left picture), I’m not sure if I could have ever predicted not only having the chance to return (albeit remotely), but the chance to return with the opportunity to do the work I love so much. Even more unexpected, my journey with CEELI is not ending at the close of the summer. As many of the projects I took part in will continue after my original ten-week internship, I have happily accepted an externship with CEELI for this fall (an unexpected but very appreciated benefit of working remotely). This opportunity will allow me to delve deeper into international topics such as remote judging and fair trial concerns, while having an increase responsibility in the development of CEELI projects.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my internship was working closely with the CEELI staff. My mentors and staff members created an atmosphere that allowed me to learn from their experiences while also having the freedom to work on projects independently and contribute to the institute's success. Even though I only had the chance to meet via video chat the appreciation and want for me to succeed was clear. The CEELI Institute was thousands of miles away, but I could have not asked for a warmer, more sincere group of individuals to lead me through my first legal internship.
With fall around the corner and program planning in full swing, there was a shift in focus for the CEELI team. In Europe, the response to COVID-19 pandemic has been significantly stronger than here in America. Because of this, CEELI has been able to consider having in-person events starting in the fall. One of the most valuable parts of this experience has been watching the CEELI team adapt their projects and curriculum to an online world. In light of the pandemic, CEELI was able to convert numerous in-person events, to thoughtful and interactive online projects. To me, this highlighted the value of having a team with diverse talents and having a willingness to try something new. Within months, CEELI transitioned all of their events online and develop new initiatives to react to judicial needs during the pandemic. Now, with the ability to hold some in-person programming, I am watching the CEELI team adapt again. Instead of doing either all or nothing programing, the team has begun to create blended learning curriculums. This allows participants to complete a majority of work online, while still having a some in-person training events. This helps ensure the safety of all participants while still having the benefits of some in-person learning.
This internship felt unreal numerous times this summer. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that it felt like I was living in two worlds at once. The contrast of working with international judges and living my parent’s home in South Florida was confusing at times. However, even with the confusion, there were also several instances of pure giddiness. The excitement of meeting judges from all around the world, the pride in contributing to grant reports, the joy in finding an elusive typo, and the visible growth in my ability to understand the nuisances in fair trial law all contributed to this giddiness.
I remember the first months of 1L year, looking at the confidence of 2Ls and wondering when do I get there? When does all of this become a little less overwhelming? After my summer with CEELI and this opportunity it's clear — confidence comes from working in the field. Realizing that you have learned important skills and that your thoughts about the law (while still in development) are valid and can be helpful. What I wanted most out of this experience was to not only learn, but to be of use. I cannot thank Professor Warren and the CEELI Institute enough for making that hope happen. I am so excited to continue my work with CEELI and to join Professor Warren in her Comparative Law class.