Working Through Differences and the Beauty of Collaboration

When I began my internship 3 weeks ago at NCSC, I was a little worried when I was told that I would be working almost exclusively on the Moldova legal education project. I wondered if my work would become mundane and if every day would start to look the same. A majority of the staff at International Programs, including the other interns, juggle several projects from many different regions at once, and there is major variation in their work from day to day. However, it did not take long for me to realize that my days would be just as jam-packed and diverse as my coworkers, despite being assigned to only one primary project. One aspect of my work that I have begun to look forward to each week is our biweekly meetings with the field office in Moldova. The field office consists of 3 extremely accomplished women who work almost full-time on helping us to create the legal education course and plan for its implementation in Moldova. Currently, our meetings with them have revolved around the impending Training of Trainers workshop that requires all hands on deck. In the final week of June into July, NSCS staff will join the Moldova field office, along with William and Mary professor Jennifer Franklin in Moldova for a legal education workshop. At this workshop, Professor Franklin, the field office and NCSC staff will work to teach Moldovan law professors the substantive content and the outline of  the Semester 1 Research and Writing Course. The course will be unlike anything that the law professors have seen before in Moldovan curriculum, and there are many logistical and cultural obstacles that arise when launching a novel education course that is intended to reshape legal education in a country. 

The aforementioned logistical and cultural obstacles to this process come to a head during our often 2-3 hour long meetings with the Moldova field office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It can be easy to craft a seemingly fool-proof plan for the curriculum or the workshop training in the Arlington office, using US law classes as a model and bolstered by positive feedback from William and Mary law professors and students such as myself. However, there are many instances in which a finished class or agenda will reach the field office and our Moldovan counterparts will say: “This will not work.” Sometimes, it is because our expectations for students and professors alike are mirrored after the academic culture in US law schools, which is very different from Moldovan law schools. Sometimes, it is because our class examples or curriculum is not context-specific to Moldova and its legal system. The Moldovan field office is like a check on the inevitable culture-specific details that slip through the cracks as we draft this project. 

There are frequent differences in opinions between our Arlington staff and the field office about how the curriculum and the training should be conducted, and it is both enlightening and fascinating to watch our teams comb through their disagreements and compromise. Sometimes, the differing opinions initiate a conversation that will generate an innovative and fitting solution for the problem. I feel as though one of the primary skills I am adopting through this internship is the ability to advocate for what I want, while also honoring others' wishes and cordially yet pointedly working towards a solution. Once this education project has been launched and taught in Moldova, the success of the course can be attributed to the dedication and collaboration of the NCSC staff and the field office’s efforts to make this initiative the best it can possibly be.