The Central and East European Moot Competition (CEEMC) organized by the British Law Centre was in itself one of the most amazing experiences in our lives. It was made even more amazing by the fact that we, the team from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Bulgaria won the 2017 edition of the competition, for which we were awarded a one-week trip to the United Kingdom. As October approached, we eagerly awaited traveling to Cambridge and London. We tried and tried to imagine the inspiring people we would meet and the wonderful experiences we would have – but we couldn’t have done any of it justice.
As soon as we arrived in Cambridge, we knew that we would fall in love with the university city. The history-soaked buildings, the greenery and the lazy river with all the punts running on it – it all created an atmosphere unlike anything we could have expected (and which inevitably excited our inner Harry Potter nerds to no end). Our first stop at Cambridge was the Faculty of Law and it immediately struck us how modern the building is in comparison with the majority of other university buildings in Cambridge. We were impressed by the spacious, full of natural light place, and with the enormous Squire Law Library, of which Chief Librarian David Wills gave us a tour. At the Faculty, we were lucky enough to attend not only the start-of- the-year address by Professor Richard Fentiman, head of the Faculty of Law, but also several of the first lectures for the year. It was a heady feeling, being able to participate, if only for a short while, in the academic process in one of the most renowned law schools in the world.
One of the best things about our visit to Cambridge was the meetings we had with Cambridge academic staff members Dr Jennifer Davis and Dr Rumiana Yotova. Dr Davis spoke with us at length about the university and its Oxbridge-unique college system, as well as about UK law education in general. Meanwhile, Dr Yotova, a fellow Bulgarian and graduate from Sofia University, inspired us by recounting her journey to Cambridge and by discussing her topic of interest – international law. Dr Yotova also gave us some great tips on places to visit and things to do during our stay. On her recommendation, we made a trip to the nearby village of Grantchester – where we tried traditional tea with scones at the famous tea room/garden “The Orchard” – and also attended the evening service at the Chapel of St John’s college.
Our visit to Cambridge wouldn’t have been the same without the dinner at Professor and Mrs Cornish’s lovely home. Our hosts told us many stories about life at the university city, about Professor Cornish’s distinguished teaching career, and about his long-standing support of the CEEMC and the work of the British Law Center. Since the dinner took place on our final evening in Cambridge, it truly was the perfect ending to a perfect stay.
Even though we fell in love with Cambridge, the time spent in London was no less amazing. The absolutely first thing we got to do when we arrived in the capital was to visit the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple – one of the four professional associations for barristers in England and Wales, collectively known as the Inns of Court. There we were warmly welcomed by its Sub Treasurer, Mr Patrick Maddens. Over lunch, Mr Maddens described the rich history of the Inn (which has educated a number of extraordinary people since its creation in the 14th century, such as Mahatma Gandhi himself!), and afterwards showed us the Temple Church, an almost mystical place, long associated with the Knights Templar.
We were next treated to a visit to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, where we got to meet Lord Carnwath, one of the current Justices. Lord Carnwath kindly took the time to tell us about the work of the Supreme Court, highlighted some of the most interesting recent cases on its docket, and even discussed with us the differences between the structures of the judiciaries in the UK and Bulgaria. Here, special thanks would not be remiss to Mr George White, Judicial Assistant to Lord Carnwath and Lord Sumption, who gave us a tour of the court building and provided insight into the day-to- day workings of the court, all the while staunchly braving a barrage of questions. The undoubted highlight of our London trip was the chance to participate in a day-long course at the Inner Temple alongside British law students hoping to become members of the Temple. The course included workshops in articulation, interpersonal communication, body language, vocal techniques, etc. It was an enlightening experience, impressing upon us how much effort it takes to be a first-class lawyer. Being involved in the workshop was also a great opportunity to talk to law students from all over the UK and to compare notes on academic experiences and career plans.
In addition to the incredible activities arranged by the British Law Centre, we also spent a while simply exploring London and visiting all the must-see tourist attractions, including Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Millenium Bridge, and Trafalgar Square. By unanimous vote, our favourite locations ended up being the British Museum and Hyde Park. We all left London acknowledging what a unique experience we had in all the places we had the chance to visit and how surreal it was to have the honor to meet such amazing people. We are very much thankful for the smooth organization and the pleasant accommodation, for which we would like to extend our warm gratitude to Ms Denise Ashmore and Ms Ann Smith.
With sincere thanks,
Alexander Leshev, Ana Petrova, Mariella Bogdanova, Zlatina Gadzheva
Sofia University Team 2017