Our day began very early with our final departure from our host families. The night before I had packed all my things, had my last meal with the family, and said my goodbyes. In the morning I had breakfast with my host dad and Pedro before we were driven to Brussels Central Station. From this point we all boarded the train towards The Hague, Netherlands. I had previously been to the Netherlands, but I had never been able to travel to The Hague prior to this trip. Immediately upon our arrival we hit the ground running as we barely caught the tram to take us to our first sight visit, the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is a permanent court that is focused on taking individuals to court who have committed serious crimes against to humanity such as genocide, war crimes and persecution. We were given an overview of the organization’s history as well as information on cases currently underway at the court. There are 23 cases presently in front of the court with 14 arrests and 13 suspects still at large. There are currently 6 persons being detained at the detention facility for court proceedings, two of whom we were able to see at a public session of their trial. Laurent Gbagbo was the former President of the Ivory Coast who abused his power and incited violence in the country after he lost the 2010 presidential election. He and his Minister of Defense, Charles Blé Goudé, were eventually captured and are now facing trial. Even though we only were able to be present for a few short moments of the trial, it was crazy to see a former head of state being tried for terrible crimes. It was a pleasant reminder that in the end, no person is above the law and cannot avoid justice forever. At one point I caught the glare of Mr. Blé Goudé and I had this pang of fear in my heart. Even though there was absolutely nothing he could to nor would he have any reason to do so, looking into the eyes of a man responsible for such terrible things really chills your soul. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look in his anger filled eyes reminiscent of a caged animal biding its time until it could break out and take revenge on its captors. I wish this were my attempt at simple literary enhancement, but at this moment I truly felt my stomach drop and felt a genuine sense of fear.
To the drastic contrast of the previous segment, after our visit to the ICC we went by tram to the coast in order to have a meal of traditional Dutch pancakes! A savory pancake topped with meats, vegetables, and spices was followed by a sweet pancake topped with warm cherries, whipped cream, and ice cream. What better way to recover from an early morning start and a staring contest with a war criminal than delicious comfort food? I even had time to pull off my dress shoes and socks, roll up my pant legs, and go for a quick stroll down the beach to the water! After dusting myself off, we left to tour the Hall of Knights and have a quick stop in the Dutch parliament. Our tour guide gave us a brief overview of the area and the history of the Hall of Knights. This hall is famously known for the yearly address given by the Dutch King and the royal procession beforehand. Despite being renovated and restored numerous times, it still held that appearance of being old and worn in the best possible way.
This blog post is my final post for the semester! Up to this point, I’ve experienced so much and made so many connections both professional and private that I simply would not have without this program. Even though at this point there are only about two weeks left in the program, there is still so much left to see in Berlin and Krakow. I can truly say that doing this program was one of the best choices I’ve made for not only my personal enjoyment, but also my future professional career as well. Despite being an engineering major, this program has given me both the experience and the desire to broaden my horizons and to pursue other ventures in my future. Until next time Europe!