Week One: An International Journey

I've been in the Netherlands for four days, which is a little hard to believe. When finals and joint journal competition stood between me and this trip, it felt like May 16th would never come. Yet, here I am, already on my third day of work. I left home (Buffalo, NY) on Monday, took a short flight to NYC, a somewhat longer flight to Amsterdam (only 6.2 hours actually) and then took a short train ride to the Hague. All in all, the trip took me only about 12 hours, much shorter than what I might have imagined. Nonetheless, jet lag hit at the end of my journey, leading to my confused state as I spent about an hour wandering the Hague while I tried to find my accommodations. Turns out they were around the corner from the train station, but it was quite fun lugging a large suitcase up and down the cobbled Dutch streets. Shout out to whoever designed the bags with wheels that turn 360 degrees around though. A revolution in travel, I would say.

After finally locating The Student Hotel, I checked into my room, tried a stroopwafel ("two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle"), and unpacked my things. To stave off the obsessive urge to sleep, I wandered the city again, looking for the location of my internship site. Once again, I soon found myself lost, something I've learned you have to embrace while traveling. I eventually did find the IDEA office, located inside The Passage, a covered (but not fully enclosed) shopping area near the city center. Confident that I wouldn't get lost and be late for my first day of work, I finally returned home for some much needed rest.

My first day didn't start until 10 AM on Wednesday. I arrived at work, met several of the six people I will be working with this summer, and went out for a cappucino with my boss. We talked about IDEA's structure, the process of constitution building, and my goals for the summer. Afterward, my boss gave me a number of things to read to orient myself with the work that IDEA's Constitution Building Program does. I learned about the various ways in which a constitution can be written or built (as these are two different things), about the ways in which IDEA attempts to garner attention to constitution processes in countries where constitution building is imminent, and about the various ways that cultural ideals influence the terms that are written into a constitution. For the first of what I assume will be many times, I was made cogniznant of how American-centered we can be back home. Most constitutions are actually drastically different from the United States constitution. For example, most are longer and include more detailed explanations of individual rights.

My second day was similar. I first spent some time reading the Maltese constitution (with a grand total of 124 articles). Then I used that constitution to test the Constitution Assessment for Women's Equality (CAWE) tool that my coworker developed. The tool asks a number of questions about gender protections in the constitution you are evaluating and then spits out a report that you can use to evaluate the overall protections in place for women's equality in that constitution. It was very interesting work and I feel honored to have helped with such a labor-intensive project.

Today, I attended a digital marketing meeting, where we discussed the ways in which marketing can be used to target countries where constitution building processes are imminent. The Constitution Building Program maintains a website with resources for those who are going to be writing or revising a constitution to use. Thus, my coworkers hope to target advertising specifically in areas where the process is relevant at the time.

Overall, I am amazed by all I have learned in such a short period of time. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to keep working with my coworkers, each of whom brings a unique perspective to the office, as they each hail from a different nation. I look forward to next week, when I will begin working on a project that examines how constitutions establish protections for the economically marginalized members of society. Before then, though, I will spend this weekend exploring the Hague, perhaps picking up some Dutch along the way.