Goodbyes and Introductions

I cannot believe I’m already home and my year as a Roger M Jones Fellow has come to a close. This past year has been difficult, but every experience and encounter has altered my perception of the world and the people in it, giving me new motivation and reasons to continue exploring and learning. There is so much of my story that I wasn’t able to share here.

Fortunately, the RMJ story will continue. I’m excited to introduce the 2016-17 Fellow: Ashley Kiemen, who will be traveling to London to study the philosophy of science at the London School of Economics! I wish Ashley all the best as she starts her adventure and I look forward to reading about it!

As for me, I will be returning to the University of Michigan to start a PhD in Computer Science, with the aim of studying censorship, surveillance, data protection, and privacy, among other security topics. Part of what I wanted to gain during my year in Germany was an insight into how people address these themes from different directions and fields of study, because I feel that those who design and build technology can sometimes be quite disconnected from the actual users and their needs. In my classes this year, I saw these problems from an entirely new point of view, but at the same time I slowly learned that human rights law is often just as removed from the people it’s trying to help as technology is.

It was really from my classmates and friends that I learned why this field exists at all, and why it really is moving forward — the ambition and hope of the people who believe in it. The people I met were from all over the world, with so many different experiences and motivations for working in human rights, and these people most of all are a source of inspiration to me as I move forward.

I am so grateful to the Roger M Jones Fellowship for giving me this opportunity. It is playing a major role in who I’m becoming and how I will move forward with my education and my life. Thanks for following me on my journey!

Auf Wiedersehen!



A snapshot of Berlin

When a friend came to visit me for a long weekend, I finally had the chance to check off a few things on my list of sights to see in Berlin before leaving.

Hohenschönhausen Memorial

The first stop was the Hohenschönhausen Memorial in the former East German part of the city. The building was built as a cafeteria during the Nazi era, but was transformed into a Soviet prison after 1945, housing Nazi members and other post-war prisoners. The purpose of the complex changed after it was taken over by the Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security. Between the building and the fall of the Wall, the prison housed mostly political prisoners and those who had failed at escaping East Germany. The Memorial was created by and is entirely run by former prisoners, who give the tours and share their experiences in East Germany and with the Stasi.

The guide we had was imprisoned for 10 months for attempting to flee to West Germany. He was 18 at the time. Another woman he spoke of had been imprisoned for being Jehovah’s Witnesses (crime: endangering world peace). Hearing the stories directly from eye-witnesses makes the whole experience more vivid. It reminds us that these stories are not so far in the past. Our guide even told us that several years earlier, he was telling his tour group about his escape attempt, and one of the visitors realized that he had been the guard who had shot him.

The people who had lived on both sides of these stories are still around, in the same neighborhoods, living next to one another. The reunification of Germany in 1990 saw immunity for a lot of people — from the people who operated this prison, only one saw a prison sentence himself. But that type of forgiveness, if forgiveness is the right word, was recognized as the only way to rebuild a unified country. The cracks in society are still visible, but so is the desire to move forward, and that’s much stronger.


Berlin was heavily bombed during the two world wars. By the time the city emerged in 1945, over half of the buildings were destroyed. With this rubble, a small mountain was built on the western side of the city and named Teufelsberg, which translates literally to Devil’s Mountain. Then, during the Cold War, the NSA built an American listening station at the top. When it was abandoned, the buildings were emptied out but the structures and the domes remained in place. Now it’s occupied by artists and squatters, and you can go wander around the complex. Most of the walls have been covered with street art, there are gardens in the yard, and a honeybee colony in the back.

It was an impressive complex and there was something satisfying about seeing a space built by an organization for the purpose of building institutional power being repurposed as a playground for hippies.

Flughafen Tempelhof

After World War II ended, Germany was divided into four zones, one for each of the Allied powers. Berlin was in the middle of the Soviet zone, but as the capital, the city itself was also divided into four quarters. After relations between the Soviet Union and the other Allies deteriorated, this left the western part of Berlin stranded as an island in the middle of the Soviet-occupied territory. For 11 months during 1948-49, this part of Berlin became accessible only through the Luftbrücke, the Berlin Airlift, which delivered supplies to the city through the Tempelhof airport.

The airport, which was used throughout the years as a commercial airport as well, closed in 2008, but the field was taken over as an urban park. You can walk or bike out onto the runways, windsail on roller blades, fly kites, and barbecue. There’s a community garden, art projects, and a baseball diamond. And in the last few months, there’s been another development: some of the buildings have been taken over as emergency refugee housing. This park really shows what Berlin is about. The residents are invested in what their community is and what it can be, and they act on their ideas. They create the most bizarre and wonderful spaces.


Pizza Vegetariana

I went to Poland for pizza the other night with a friend. Most of the restaurants in Słubice, the city across the river, will have a German translation of the menu, so avoiding meat isn’t usually difficult. But every once in a while I still encounter a German word I don’t know. This time it was Miesmuschel. Normally I’d be able to look it up in my dictionary, but as I reached for my phone the waitress appeared and asked us to order. In Słubice, most of the people I’ve encountered in the service industry also speak German (a feature that is tellingly not the case with Germans speaking Polish in Frankfurt). I pointed to the word on the menu and asked in German, “Is this meat?” She said no. Still slightly skeptical, I pressed again,”So this pizza is vegetarian?” She gave me a funny look and pointed to the pizza titled Pizza Vegetariana. “Right. But this pizza is also vegetarian?” Yes, yes, yes. I like surprises, so I took a chance on the mystery ingredient. 20 minutes later I had my translation: mussels. My friend and I got a good laugh out of the encounter, and a lucky stray cat got my mussels on the walk home.

Many of my friends and family were surprised when I stopped eating meat while living in Germany in 2013. After all, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when imagining German cuisine? I bet it ends in -wurst. But Germany has a culture of environmental conscientiousness that is more mainstream than in the USA, and found myself thinking about vegetarianism more and more frequently. I find that a large number of my peers here are vegetarian as well. The decision was surprisingly easy once I learned about the system of meat production we experience both in the USA and in Germany. The data are telling.

I identify now that this change in habit came at a fairly significant point of time in my education, when I started to believe that I did not — and could not — separate my personal from my academic life. When I began to believe that eating meat was contributing to a system I found unethical, stopping wasn’t hard. It felt like less of a choice and more of an obligation. At this time in 2013 I also began to think very seriously about what kind of career I wanted. Up until that point, I had the sense that my (foggily conceived) future career would somehow be an independent realm, stopping short of my “real life”, which would be built from all the things I would do outside of work. I realized that giving the bulk of my time and energy to something that didn’t contribute to improving the world in a way that aligned with my core values was, for me, illogical.

I frame this conversation around being vegetarian mostly because this lifestyle choice compels me to think constantly about the impact I have on my environment and my community. There are so many layers of impact to consider, from the difference between buying something grown on the outskirts of town and the opposite side of the globe, to buying produce from a supermarket and a farmer’s market. Even the difference between interacting directly with farmers and an overworked cashier or self-scan machine makes for a more intimate community (although smiling at strangers is unfortunately often an unwelcome activity in this neck of the woods).

It’s a similar line of thinking that drove me to study security technologies, where I hope my skills and education contribute in a positive way to a different community, this time of activists, journalists, and citizens. But unlike with food, I didn’t quite feel like I had an understanding of all the layers of impact within the ecosystems of, for example, State censorship or surveillance. If I don’t really know the types of problems that people are struggling with, I can’t constructively contribute to solving them. Even knowing the nature of the problem is not enough, and it is not the difficult part of the equation; it’s also essential to understand the root cause and the peripheral effects of the proposed solution. The wrong solution can hurt more than help if it’s carelessly designed and thrown into an ecosystem. Human rights law was a way for me to conceive of these ostensible “technology problems” through another framework, one specifically designed to address them in an entirely different way.

I’ve certainly gained a valuable perspective on these topics, but the thing that’s been reaffirmed most thoroughly is just how far away both the fields of international law and tech research feel from the people they affect. This is another reason that I’m glad I no longer feel like my personal life is isolated from my academic life. My experience with these problems and solutions will also come from the connections and friendships I’m making to people from all over the world as I continue to expand my community and reflect on the systems we’re a part of.

What is this human rights business, anyway?

When I decided to study in an international human rights law program, I only had a basic understanding of what “human rights” meant and what they might be, as most of us probably do. I expected to learn about how they’re interpreted and enforced around the world, but in order for their application to have any meaning at all, I needed to also study the concept and its evolution.

The history

Modern humans have been around for 200,000 years, and yet the concept of “human rights” as we’ve come to understand it today has really only been accepted in the last 100. Through the years we’ve seen many iterations of societal rules which can be placed loosely in the area of human rights precursors. For most of those years societies were organized based on divine law, tradition, and the political arrangements of the powerful. The laws that related to moral conduct were not really intended to protect individuals. Take as an example the Ten Commandments. The edicts, “You shall not…” in total establish a list of rules one is obliged to follow for the purpose of creating an orderly and stable society. The obligation not to kill doesn’t emphasize the right of an individual to live, and in fact could be interpreted as an obligation to society rather than to any other person. By and large, any protection for individuals was reserved for the powerful rather than the common person.

In the most recent centuries we saw significant changes in the structure of society. Larger, centralized States, industrialization, rapidly spreading capitalism, and the beginnings of globalization disrupted communities and social orders that had to some extent offered stability through their traditional systems.[1] Workers and marginalized groups were increasingly pressed into poorer living and working conditions with little or no social or legal protection. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and the American Declaration of Independence, with their assertions that man has certain unalienable rights, both demonstrated a reaction against the increasing power of the State at the cost of the individual and mark significant movement toward modern human rights. Yet both documents in text and in practice really only protected a subset of the population – aristocratic white men. Many of the legal changes during this time granted limited protection to citizens (where “citizen” had a narrow definition) while bolstering Nations and strengthening Empires as much as possible. The abolition of the slave trade and slavery by the British in the early 1800s, for example, had more to do with the fear of growing American power than any concern for the rights of slaves or a sense of morality.

This trend continued into the 20th century, where States solidified their power in international law and granted protections to limited groups of people where it was necessary and profitable. It was finally in the aftermath of World War II that the language and attitude for addressing human rights began to change. In 1945 the United Nations was formed with the determination “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. Subsequently, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created in 1948, finally enumerating and codifying the basic human rights the nations of the UN should aspire to protect. It begins by stating that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not legally binding, it facilitated an important shift towards the systematic protection of human rights as an obligation of Nations and of humanity as a whole, and not as the prerogative of individual States.

Following this foundational document, there have been multiple international and regional versions and implementations of human rights in law. Although these rights may be categorized and expressed differently in different places, they are intended to be universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. How well this is embodied in each system and how well the implementations serve each unique community is a constant point of discussion and revision.

The philosophy

Although so many systems of human rights protection are now in place, there continue to be violations of these rights in every State in existence. Human rights systems are, by nature, aspirational. Because no system works perfectly and no State has a way to protect all of its peoples equally, it is always going to be worthwhile to reflect on the foundations of human rights. With the countless cultures, societies, and religions worldwide, I don’t think it will ever possible in practice to have one system that suits the needs of all people. Therefore, it’s a necessary exercise for us to reflect on the elements that go into forming the ideas and motivations behind human rights and considering how they can continue to be utilized for improving the system.

So what is the objective of human rights? It can be simply (but not reductively) stated that the aim is to ensure human dignity. The Universal Declaration asserts: the right to life, liberty, security, privacy, education; freedom of thought, expression, and religion; and the freedom from slavery, torture, and discrimination, among others. This enumeration of human rights seeks to define the most basic human needs, without which we would not be able to live a dignified and fulfilled life. The denial of any of these rights does not make one any less human. It could even be argued that there are situations which make it necessary to temporarily stop protecting some of these rights, for example in times of war. But at the core, each of us deserves to have these rights ensured to us. Their codification in law can also be seen as a system of protection. We wish to protect the individual against a bureaucratic or malicious State, the minority against the majority, the weak against the powerful. Without these protections, those whose rights have been violated would not have any recourse against the State.

Another challenging question is by whose authority we hold these rights. Many people may believe that the dignity of humans is god-given, and the values we seek to protect can be derived from holy texts. But human rights are by nature supposed to be universally applicable to all people. The recognition of any one religion as the source of authority is problematic. After all, there are countless different formulations and understandings of dozens of major religions worldwide. To grant that one conception of one religion is “correct” places literally billions of other people in opposition. But to reject that the human rights we recognize today are founded in religion does not mean there cannot be a consensus on a set of rights that functions with the value systems of all peoples. In fact, the diversity of motivations for protecting human rights, across cultures and religions, only serves to inform and enrich the systems we create.

In practice, the authority of human rights is granted only by humans. I like to think it’s human nature to empathize and care for each other, but in reality this isn’t enough to prevent massive human rights violations from occurring around the world. While human rights are the obligation of the State, we all play a role in its success and enforcement. When those in relatively comfortable or powerful positions are so separated from a disadvantaged group, they cannot empathize or they do not know the situation. This is a huge problem in our modern world, where our clothes are made in sweatshops in Bangladesh and purchased from a clean, air-conditioned stores down the road, and where the narrative of other religions or peoples is so convoluted in extremist rhetoric that we dismiss their humanity and advocate for carpet bombing and torture. The burden to protect those being harmed is on the State, but the States are accountable to us. The only thing that ensures that these rights will be respected is each of us, the respect we have for one another, and a continued dedication to the principles of human rights.

The system of human rights that has been created is not a solution to the problems we face today. But it gives maltreated people unprecedented power to respond to violations, and an obligation to all of us to continue to improve the lives of everyone. Human rights are both a standard and an aspiration. There’s so much work to be done to ensure the rights of people worldwide, but if we promote the discussion in all aspects of our legal system and personal lives, human rights law can continue to improve for people around the world.


With this post in especially, I openly welcome feedback, criticism, skepticism, and questions! I am still developing these ideas every day, and this topic can only be improved by more diverse perspectives.


Reading List:

Donnelly, Jack (2007): ‘The Relative Universality of Human Rights’, Human Rights Quarterly, Volume 29, Issue 2, 2007, pp. 281-306.

Shestack, Jerome J. (2000). The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. In Symonides, J. I. (ed.) Human rights: Concept and standards. (pp. 31-66). Aldershot: Ashgate/Dartmouth.

Tomuschat, Christian (2014). Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

And thanks to Susan for the brainstorming and feedback!


During the second half of December, I was able to spend some much-needed time at home with my family.

Allow me to be a bit candid here. I’ve lived abroad before and I’ve effectively lived alone. I didn’t have any anxiety about moving back to Germany. But I was unprepared to struggle in some of the ways that I have the past few months.

It probably has a lot to do with leaving a situation of high emotion so abruptly and completely in September. Needing to immediately jump into lessons, it was much easier to detach from thinking about home and to avoid reflection than to stay engaged. Unfortunately, that detachment bled into some facets of my social and academic life as well. Curiosity became a slippery thing I could only hold onto for so long. It became difficult to focus my thoughts enough to write for myself, let alone for an audience.

Breaking routine facilitates breaking habits. Every time my routine is disrupted — ending a semester, moving, taking a vacation — I reflect on the habits I want to maintain and the habits I want to be rid of. Traveling home disrupted my routine enough to give me the opportunity to create a new one when I came back.

That being said, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs in a darkened room over here. I have accumulated a collection of thoughts and experiences from the last few months that I will lovingly relate here, albeit late, over the next week or two.

To end this rather short post, I have two small German language stories.

The first is a moment I had with myself while I was reading the ingredient list on my potato chips. For those who don’t know, I’ve been a vegetarian for the past 3 years. To my shock, I saw Hefeextrakt listed and thought, “Oh my god, my chips have cow extract in them.” Sometimes English words jump to mind faster than German words, even when I’m expecting German. Fortunately, I promptly remembered that Hefe is actually yeast, and my potato chips were safe to eat.

The second is a fun expression courtesy of my friend Stephan. If you’d like to excuse yourself from your company to use the bathroom, you can say, “Ich muss mal für kleine Prinzessin.” In English, “I have to for the little princess.” You can even be creative with the object of the sentence. Maybe this time you have to for the kleine Königstiger (little Bengal tiger), or the schüchternen Bär (shy bear). When I use it with my German friends I tend to get uproarious laughter, but they always know what I mean!


Right after my summer course ended, I booked a flight to Galway to spend my last two free weeks in Ireland before the semester. I had a place to stay in Galway and had the tentative idea of flying out of Dublin, but otherwise I decided to wing it.

I had never really traveled alone before, and there were two things that frightened me. The first was just that I knew I’d be alone for a significant portion of the time. It had been about a month since my dad had died, and between family, flying, and two weeks of the hectic summer course, I had virtually no time to myself or to slow down and think about any of it. The second was knowing how hard I’d have to work not to be alone all of the time. Solitary introspection can only be useful — and healthy — up to a certain point. Despite knowing I’d inevitably meet many other people on my tour, I was afraid of feeling lonely in constant strange company.

Sometimes I would feel alone. In Belfast, for example, I went with two other hostelers on a black cab tour, which consisted of a cabbie driving us around and giving a political history tour of the city. I had become increasingly interested in learning about the Northern Ireland conflict and had spent several days exploring the topic in books, museums, and with locals. Belfast, as the largest and most politically and religiously divided city in Northern Ireland, was of great interest to me in my investigation into “the Troubles”. The black cab tours, I was told, were a must-see attraction in Belfast, giving real insight into the conflict. I was unprepared for the biased and vitriolic tour I received. After two hours of listening to a cab driver whose eyes gleamed at the memory of violence, I felt distressed. As we climbed out of the cab I looked to my companions, hoping to discuss it critically, but I found them smiling serenely and expressing their praise for the tour. There is a difference, I think, between learning about the history and the political situation of the places you visit and exploiting the experiences of the residents for tourism, especially when the stories are as heartbreaking and raw as they are in Northern Ireland. Finding myself without a friend to discuss these feelings of discomfort were perhaps the loneliest point of the trip.

But most of the time I was amazed at how much intimacy can be established between strangers. One night I offered to walk home early from a pub with another woman staying at my hostel. As soon as we were outside she said she was dying to tell someone that she just found out she was pregnant. Because it was so early and her first pregnancy, I was the only person she had told other than her partner. For the 20 minute walk home, I got to share this woman’s excitement and nerves. In the morning, I wished the pair luck and will likely never see them again.

And in Dublin, after spending the evening struggling to find anyone to talk to (wifi in hostels has its drawbacks), I took the plunge and approached the only other person sitting alone. It’s maybe the luckiest shot in the dark I’ve ever taken, because I made an incredibly valuable friend. Even with such a brief time together in person, I’ve gained a correspondent with seemingly endless insight, optimism, and creativity.

What I mean to say, and what I hope I’ve conveyed to you with a handful out of many examples, is that by nature, these encounters are rapid and intense, a quick succession of tragic miscommunications and euphoric connections. They required a high level of honesty from myself about what I want from my conversations and friends and about how I express myself to match those desires. They are encounters whose lessons I see continually seeping into the way I interact with people today.

I realize that my post about Ireland really doesn’t discuss the place itself at all, so for those who are left wanting, here are some photos for a scenic tour of the gorgeous country. Click on them for descriptions!


Featured image: Slieve League, the highest cliffs in Ireland

Lawyer for a day

The day after I landed in Germany, my summer course on the European System of Human Rights began. The course hosted over 40 students from 21 different countries. We met every day for two weeks and were instructed by professors working in human rights and humanitarian law fields from all over the world. Because the course was so short, most of the modules focused on asking the core conceptual questions about human rights and presenting problems central to characterizing and enforcing those rights that were defined by the European Convention on Human Rights, which all 47 members of the Council of Europe have ratified. The secondary aim of the course (though in some ways even more valuable) was to bring together people from all over the world to exchange ideas and experiences. Many of the participants are already actively involved in human rights work and I learned from everyone I got to know. I have honestly never seen such a diverse group of people come together so easily to create such a valuable community.

I wanted to share the events of the last few days of the course, as I think they illustrate well the types of questions that motivate me to study this topic. Our last task in the program was to perform a moot court, which simulated (in very short form) the proceedings of a case before the European Court of Human Rights. The students were divided into groups, in the role of either the court, the applicant, who was alleging a human rights violation, or the State, which was defending against that accusation. Our case concerned a media station in the fictional state of Kasaria, which published an anonymous article on its website claiming that the prime minister and vice prime minister were involved in a large fraud operation. The article then called on readers to join an unregistered demonstration against the government. The Kasarian state brought legal action against the television station for spreading defamatory allegations about government officials, inciting public unrest, and anonymously posting content online, which is illegal in Kasaria. The Kasarian government mandated that the media organization remove the anonymous online forum and pay damages to the prime minister and vice prime minister. This is when the media organization brought the case to our “European Court of Human Rights”, claiming that their right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression were violated. I was assigned to defend the state.

My role in this case was to focus on the right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights. For those interested, here is exactly how that right is defined:

ARTICLE 10 – Freedom of Expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The complexity of this right comes in the exceptions. In defending the state of Kasaria, we argued that the unsanctioned demonstrations would lead to civil disorder and that the allegations unduly harmed the reputations of our ministers. Most interestingly to me, we made the argument that the publishing of anonymous content on the website of a respected news agency implied that those who wrote the article have the same responsibilities as journalists to substantiate claims and be held responsible for the information being spread. If the author is anonymous, he or she cannot be held responsible for the content. By facilitating a forum in which unknown persons can publish unsupported news about our government and its officials, the media station is using its trusted reputation to threaten a fundamental requirement of a democratic society — that the people have factual information with which to make informed decisions in the democratic process.

I don’t actually believe this.

I think it is clearly necessary to be critical of a government limiting the posting of politically relevant content. Moreover, the Kasarian government outlawing the posting of anonymous content online is particularly insidious, and unfortunately never really became the focus of discussion. As we’ve learned from real-life examples, many journalists, activists, and informants put themselves in very real danger to do their jobs, and the ability to be anonymous in that position, both on- and offline, is imperative. The substantiation of their reports, despite what we argued as Kasaria, is not a new problem with the advent of the internet, and anonymous sources are something we as a society have been dealing with since the beginning of time. But spending several days searching for legal grounds to restrict the freedom of expression was something I had never been challenged to do before, even though the limitations of this and other rights are central to many of the problems I want to work on in the areas of mass surveillance, internet censorship, and anonymity.

There has always existed a tension between, for example, the right to privacy and the prerogative of the state to exercise its duty as law enforcement. Technology has not changed this dynamic, but it has amplified it. With this new, massive aggregation of information about individuals online rather than in private homes and locked desks, it is easy to see why states want power over and access to electronic communications. The problem is that the legal uses of data and technology have largely not yet been hashed out, leaving opportunities for companies, states, and other organizations to set precedents in data access and use that far exceed what is safe and what many people feel is appropriate. It’s easy to see that individuals need to regain some control over their personal data online, but how much access should remain is the million dollar question. Many people would be comfortable with the state maintaining access to some of their communications and identity as they move about the internet. States argue that they should maintain access to much more, and are certainly not going to cede all of their control. Some people, for very legitimate and sometimes life-threatening reasons, want to be sure that none of their identity is available to any third party. Just think — if Kasaria had the resources that the USA or the UK have, they likely wouldn’t have had to ask the media company to reveal the identity of this anonymous fraud-whistleblower. So what’s the compromise?

One of my many objectives in the International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Master’s program is to learn to define, for myself and my own worldview, for my own peace of mind and for the sake of the work I want to do in the future, the lines between human rights their inevitable exceptions. The fact that I’ve rewritten the second half of this post with three different conclusions has demonstrated to me that even on the topic I’ve spent the most time thinking about, privacy and anonymity, I don’t feel completely comfortable with my own conception of where these rights end. I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like an awfully exciting endeavor.

Meet Allison!

My dad and me in Hofbrauhaus in Munich, 2013.
My dad and me in Hofbrauhaus in Munich, 2013.

Hello everyone! I am so thrilled to finally be joining (and eventually taking over for) Andrea on the Roger M Jones Fellowship blog. Andrea has done an amazing job in including us in her personal adventures and challenging us with her course material. It will be an exciting challenge for me to follow her example in providing such interesting and thought-provoking posts.

I’m also a native Michigander, born and raised in Port Huron. This past May I received my BSE in Computer Science and BS in German. Starting in October I’ll be studying at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder in Germany, which is the little Frankfurt on the German-Polish border. I spent a year of my undergraduate living in Freiburg, Germany, and I’m ecstatic that I have found my way back to the country — though on the exact opposite end. I will be enrolling in a Master’s Program on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and in the next few weeks I thoroughly look forward to exploring with you how this does, in fact, have a lot to do with my Computer Science degree. In the meantime, I’ll be taking a two-week summer course on the European System of Human Rights Protection, which is starting Monday (!), and settling into my new city.

At the moment, my journey has just barely begun. I’m sitting in the Toronto airport with one hour to boarding. As excited as I am and have been for many months, the last few weeks of planning for the trip were a bit foggier and the goodbyes a bit harder than anticipated. For those who haven’t been in touch with me recently, my dad passed away a little over two weeks ago, while I was traveling in Liberia. I was fortunately able to return home shortly after and be with my family. Although my dad enjoyed grumbling about the full-time job I walked away from to take this fellowship, I know he was proud of the decision I made and the paths I’ve taken in my studies and my life. This will be a difficult year for me to be away from home, but I am so grateful to the Roger M Jones Fellowship and to my family for making this experience possible. I look forward to sharing it here with you.