This cultural exchange program, with its very demanding academic and social nature, has certainly increased my understanding and my knowledge about so many issues

Vreede scholar, 2011

My experience at The Hague Academy for International Law this summer was very enriching in every meaning of the word. One would think that a three-week summer course is perhaps too short for making friends, learning about a subject matter, and getting to know about another culture and a different environment; however, this was all possible for me in the Netherlands this summer. Attending the Private International Law summer course from July 25th  – August 12th, 2011 has been certainly one of the most memorable experiences.

As a Palestinian citizen from the Gaza Strip, my family has had its share of displacement because of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I lived in Saudi Arabia with my family until the age of nine and then we returned to Gaza in 1995, soon after the signing of the Oslo agreement. In 2003 I was selected from the Gaza Strip to represent Palestine at the United World College in Norway, where I joined another 199 students from more than 83 different countries to study for the International Baccalaureate exam. Before graduating from UWC in 2005 I was also awarded a full scholarship to attend Middlebury College in Vermont, USA, where I studied political science, economics, Spanish and Hebrew. At the moment I am pursuing my MA degree at Heidelberg University in Germany, with a particular focus on the role of the United States in the Israeli Palestinian peace negotiations. As some of my friends from The Hague Academy jokingly told me this summer, my life could apparently make for a good Private International Law case!

I first started pursuing my interest in international law when I attended a one-semester program in international law and organizations at the American University in Washington, DC, during the fall semester of 2008. While my course work during that semester was mostly in Public International Law, this summer I learned more about the subject of Private International Law, with the hope of pursuing a second MA degree in international law in the future.

At The Hague Academy in the Netherlands we were 340 students from more than 70 different countries and my experience there further increased my appreciation for living in an international environment and my interest in international relations. The main subject of the course being inter-European relations, this summer course has particularly increased my knowledge about the European continent and the different aspects of economic, political, and social integration among the EU member states. During each of the three weeks that I spent in The Hague we were lectured on three different subject matters. Our lectures started at 9am and were over by 12:30 pm with optional seminars offered during the afternoons. The subject matters we studied included Intellectual Property Rights,

The Principle of Non-Discrimination in Private International Law, the Principle of Comity in Private International Law, Methodologies for the application of Private International Law, Transaction Planning, Cultural Diversity, Family Law and a General Course on the Conciliation of Laws that was given over the last two weeks of the session. We had assigned readings for each of the lectures, which were put on the Academy’s e-learning website, and our lectures were delivered in English and French, with audio (headset) simultaneous translations.

One of the most challenging experiences while being at The Hague was fasting the month of Ramadan, which started on August 1st. Having no food, coffee, cigarettes or water from around 3:30 am to around 9:30 pm (approx. 18 hours) was difficult, especially giving the fact that we had to also concentrate on our academics. However, fasting was made easier with the company of friends from the Arab world who were also attending the program. My friends from Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt were also fasting and we broke our fast together and hung out socially in the evenings. We went to Amsterdam at some point and talked about womens rights and gender equalities in the Arab and Muslim countries, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the events of the Arab Spring. I also made new friends with my colleagues from Greece, Germany, Serbia, Costa Rica, Norway, Brazil, Estonia, Argentina, China, Poland, Japan, Israel, and many other countries, who were very respectful of our religious practices and very interested in learning more about our part of the world.

This cultural exchange program, with its very demanding academic and social nature, has certainly increased my understanding and my knowledge about so many issues, especially the status of Arabs and Muslims living in Europe and the general characters of the European social, political and economic integration. It taught me more about EU-US relations, especially in terms of financial and business transactions, and about cultural diversity and non-discrimination in the EU as well as in Japan and Australia. It added to my understanding of international relations, international law and the rules governing relations among the different countries in the world, and it particularly widened my intellectual horizon and my analytical abilities in regards to pertinent issues such as the EU-Middle East relations and the US-Middle East-EU relations. All of those topics are topics that I am hoping to further explore as I write my current MA thesis, my next MA thesis or my PhD dissertation. Thanks to the Rabbani Foundation for its generous support and for making this experience possible.