By Zulkar Nine
It is always fun to join a summer school and the fun gets doubled when it takes place abroad. I was so lucky to join summer schools both at home and abroad.
In 2013, I participated in the 13th Human Rights Summer School on the issue of human rights and climate justice organized by Empowerment through Law of the Common People (ELCOP), a human-rights organization in Bangladesh. I experienced completely a new arena of legal education by interacting with various human rights activists, experts and obviously 47 participants. It was a learning process through doing and I have learnt a lot of issues which were always beyond my understanding previously. Activities like community visit, question and answer rounds, instant presentations, mooting – all have made up my understanding clearer and vision wider. Students from different law schools of Bangladesh and India made the total period of fourteen days enjoyable one.
After attending the summer school, I then participated in the Study of the United States Institutions-SUSI program which was in the United States under the University of Washington. This program was arranged by an international NGO named FIUTS with the supervision of US State Department. In this international residential program, there were participants from South Asia, USA, China, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Middle East. This program mainly focused on how to use social media to make a change in journalism. Besides, the issue leadership, human rights, civic engagements were other focuses of the program. During that semester students were trained to learn solving problems through dialogue, showing empathy and creative leadership. How to cope with a new environment and cultural shock was the topic which amused us a lot.We used to go through very tough schedule and rigorous trainings and classes. Journalism ethics, limits of journalistic access and using social media as a stronger arm for the service of community were our main learning. Through civic engagements we came to know about the US social system, problems and their initiatives to solve those. Meeting with the political leaders of the US were another part which was very unique in any summer school and luckily we experienced that by meeting some congressmen, mayors of different cities and public officials. One of the most innovative parts of the US education system is practical experience and prioritizing, “visit what you study in books”. After classes we used to visit different media offices like radios, newspapers, television centers and news museums. During the news museum visit popularly known as ‘newseum’ visit, we saw the broken part of Berlin wall, pictures of assassinated journalists, even pictures from Bangladesh’s Rana plaza collapse. Cultural presentation was such an impressive part in which every participant used to represent his country to the whole world.I was proud of representing my country’s culture and tradition to other delegates of different countries. The most exciting part was visiting various sites like White House, the US Supreme Court, Department of justice, Lincoln Memorial, Roosevelt Memorial, Natural History Museum and so on. The experiences I gathered in few days enchanted me unexpectedly. I was amazed seeing how theyrespect everyone’s opinion despite they don’t support it. There is a popular saying in the US that ‘‘I may not support what you say but I’ll give my life to ensure your freedom of speech’’ After the end of the semester, we came back to our own countries learning how to show respect to different opinions, journalism ethics and empathy.
Being a law student we must be very inquisitive to find out opportunities and take risk in every chance. To participate in the Human Rights Summer School, one has to prepare him/her-self through different bit of work, experiences and legal knowledge. It is tough to get chance in this school because each year a large number of applications get submitted for the program. But I believe every potential applicant can get acceptance provided that the applicants show a sense of responsibility, honesty and perseverance towards learning something new. Again in the international summer school selection process, it is tougher because students from all disciplines around the world apply here and scope is realistically very much limited. Selection process is quite rigorous also. But law students still have chance. Someone with an intent to use journalism as a mean of his legal profession is encouraged to apply each year.
After participating in these summer schools, some significant changes happened in the life of every participant. These schools taught me how to learn by doing and gather practical experience. Working in full swing even under pressure and trying to cope with the situation are major learning. Cultural shock and how to deal with that and making friends from different culture is another amazing part that I learnt. Again resolving the problems as a group and taking part in leadership role to face challenges are my most favorite parts of summer school. Instant presentations, practical visit to site or community were some of the best memories I had. Empathy, brotherhood, friendship are the things which touched every one of us that we realized when we came back. Summer school will give you a chance to build up network with people of different ideologies, ideas and it is a scope to learn from every aspect. And if you are open to changes, it will never make you upset.
Zulkar Nine is an LLM student at the University of Dhaka, and an alumnus of the US State Department. He is the co-founder of Go Green – a project in association with British Council to raise awareness of tree plantation among school going students.