It all started in February 2010, when the four of us girls (Nika Bačić, Dora Horvat, Ana Lah and Kristina Mandić) decided to form a team for the Central and East European Moot Competition. After weeks of writing and re-writing our written pleadings, and then weeks of practicing speeches, we have finally arrived to the beautiful and peaceful Vilnius where the competition took place. At that moment, this dream has started. Waking up, getting dressed, going to the courtrooms, pleading, arguing, eating sleeping…everything went by so fast, and the next thing we know- we were standing in a wonderful, theatre-like hall of the Vilnius University, pleading in the finals in front of dozens of people. Within the blink of an eye, the name of our University is being called, everyone is clapping and we realize that the months of hard work have really paid off- we have won!
That evening, a closing ceremony was organised. After all the excitement, we forgot that there is another important event on the schedule- speaker awards. Not even in our craziest dreams, could we have imagined what was about to happen- two of us have won the speaker awards- Kristina Mandic as a noted speaker and Dora Horvat as the best speaker of the competition!
A few days later, we got an e-mail about our prizes. Oh, yes, the prizes! How did we forget about that? As a winning team we got the opportunity to spend one week at the Cambridge University, and Dora, as the best speaker, got a stage at the European Court of Justice.
In the beginning of October 2011, after the summer holidays, the University of Zagreb team was reunited, but this time in a completely different manner. This time we didn’t meet in a classroom to discuss the arguments for the moot case, neither did we meet for a coffee in a café across the Law Faculty in Zagreb. This time, we were standing in the courtyard of Magdalene College of the Cambridge University. It was the Freshers’ week (the first week of lectures for the new coming students), so we were no different than most of the students there-lost, confused, scared, excited. It is impossible to describe the atmosphere in the city where practically 90% of the population are students, where there are more bicycles per capita than anywhere in the world, where the entire life is adapted to the needs of students.
Our first stop was the Law Faculty, where we were warmly welcomed by Ms Ann Smith. We got all the necessary information, maps, class schedules, food coupons and we were ready to start exploring the student life in the world’s best university in 2011.
We could probably write a novel about all the amazing things we have seen and experienced- from the most amazing law library in the world- Squire Law Library- to the beautiful college buildings where you feel like you jumped into a Harry Potter movie. We have had an opportunity to have dinner with Professor Cornish and Professor O’Keefe, as also to participate in the inaugural dinner for the new students at the Magdalene College. Words cannot describe the atmosphere at the dinner under the candle lights, at the most beautiful dining hall you could imagine. We have participated in the classes at the Law Faculty, listened to the amazing lectures from the people who we knew as the authors of the most popular EU Law books.
Somewhere in the middle of the week, we got back into our “smart clothes” and took a train to London, to the Supreme Court, where we were welcomed by the fascinating Lady Hale. She is the first and currently only female Justice of the Supreme Court, who was kind enough to share with us some exciting stories from her life and career. After that, we went to a hearing at the Supreme Court, and visited their gorgeous library with famous quotes engraved throughout the walls and the shelves. After an afternoon of sightseeing, we sat back on the train and returned to Cambridge.
It is unbelievable how fast that week had passed, just as we had started getting used to the student life there. We can say that we have experienced everything that a student in Cambridge needs to experience- life in the college, lectures, libraries, sitting on the grass and reading, eating in those wonderful dining halls, even the night life. That is why it was so difficult to say goodbye to the city after a week. While for some of us the CEEMC Journey has ended, Dora still had a very exciting experience coming up- the stage at the European Court of Justice, at the Cabinet of AG Eleanor Sharpston.
2012 had an amazing beginning for me- I have started my stage at the European Court of Justice. It is hard to describe how nervous I was, standing in front of the big building of the Court, holding nothing but a piece of paper confirming that I am a stagiaire at the cabinet of AG Sharpston. At the entrance, I was provided with my own ID-badge that certifies that I am an intern at the Court and that opens most of the doors for me.
As I was walking down the big hallway, everybody was saying “Bonjour!” to me- now I am one of “them”, the worker at the European Court of Justice. When I got out of the elevator on the seventh floor, I was warmly welcomed by Ms Rose Flammant, the assistant of AG Sharpston. She provided me with the keys to my office and introduced me to the référendaires. One of the référendaires, Ms Isabelle Van Damme explained to me how everything works at the Court and gave me the cases I am going to work on for the next two weeks.
Wow, I have my own badge, my own office, I have huge case files standing on my desk and the best of all- I have my new e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have to admit, the first thing that I did when I was left alone in the office was what any person in my position would do- I started writing dozens of e-mails from my new e-mail address: to my friends, my parents, my teachers at the University, even to myself, so that I would have this memory forever.
But then it was time to get serious, because there was a lot of work to be done. My job was to comment on the draft opinions and do the additional research if necessary. But that does not mean that I only had to do that. Whenever I found an interesting hearing I would like to participate in, I was encouraged to do so. I was also free to use the library of the Court, which is absolutely amazing.
Also, I have met a lot of other stagiaires, who have made me feel more than welcome. They have introduced me to their routines, and before I realised it, I was fully integrated in their circle. We have lunch every day at 12:30h, coffee at 16:00h. Wednesdays we go for an after-work drink, and Friday nights are reserved for parties.
Even though my stay at the Court was quite short, I must say I was able to fully experience the life as a stagiaire. Thanks to the wonderful atmosphere at the Cabinet, I was participating in everything they were doing- the Cabinet meetings, celebrations, guided tours for the students, hearings. Also, I was offered help whenever needed and all in all- no words could explain how wonderful that Cabinet was; how helpful they were in every aspect of my stay there and how welcome they made me feel.
In the end, all of the members od the University of Zagreb team would like to give one big “Thank you” to everyone who made this possible; Ms Denise Ashmore, Steve Terret and the entire CEEMC organising team; Professor William Cornish and Ms Ann Smith; AG Eleanor Sharpston and her wonderful Cabinet
University of Zagreb Team