Thoughts before the journey

Note: In August 2018, as I finalized the onboarding process with the Young Lawyer’s International Program, I volunteered to write an article discussing my thoughts and feelings leading up to my departure. Below you can find the article as it appeared in the August CBA Newsletter.


I was called to the Ontario Bar in January this year. Job hunting was my full-time occupation, and scraping together junior associate positions was an all-consuming obsession. In March, I came across the Young Lawyer’s International Program and realized that this is what genuine excitement for an opportunity felt like. In a seemingly endless flow of mind-numbing job applications, preparing a cover letter for something as unique and rewarding as YLIP was a welcome change. The application came together effortlessly and staying away from the program website and testimonials proved impossible once I’d submitted the application. The sensible side of me continued with the applications but the dreamer in me clung on to the hope of a call back.

I received an interview offer in June and between talking to former interns and learning more about the program, it was increasingly difficult to keep my expectations in check. When I finally received an offer, I was elated!

Prospective interns were asked to provide a list of their top five placement choices, though there was no guarantee of a placement to one of the five. Reducing the impressive opportunities to five was a daunting task. I hopped between websites, researching organizations, countries and cultures. I asked myself what I could offer each organization and how, in turn, I could grow from the experience. I was consumed by making the “right choice” until I was reminded that with the proper attitude, every placement could be the right choice. Those words rang especially true when I got the placement offer for Kyrgyzstan with the International Law Development Organization: while this placement was not on my list, the more I learn about it, the more I realized it should have been my top pick throughout.

The pre-departure briefing in Ottawa was the perfect start to this experience; we were able to meet other interns including those who would be going to the same countries and in some cases working with the same organizations. The training included a session featuring former interns which touched upon Global Affairs Canada’s cross-cutting themes of gender equality, environmental sustainability and governance and their role in international development initiatives which underlie the Government of Canada’s funding policy. Another session, conducted by legal practitioners Alexandra Derisier and Erin Fitzpatrick from Connecting Ottawa, focused on trauma-informed lawyering, which provided information on recognizing signs of trauma in clients and tips on how to accommodate them.

We were also connected with individuals who had spent time in our host countries. Some of these people were former interns; others like myself, who would be trailblazers with new YLIP partner organizations and placement countries, were connected with the best alternatives. I was connected with a former student and resident of Kyrgyzstan. Our conversation was informative and did wonders to address my concerns about going abroad to such an unfamiliar destination, especially in light of an earlier session on safety and emergency measures, which had left us all chuckling nervously. I came out of that conversation with a sizeable reading list, names of the hottest expat hangouts, must-do cultural experiences and a more fleshed out packing list. I have started doing daily Russian lessons on Duolingo, ordered the recommended books, and started compiling a Kyrgyz music playlist as preparation. We have been given a detailed to-do list to prepare us for the upcoming journey, and as I check off things from that list, I feel myself becoming more prepared and more excited for the upcoming adventure. My excitement for Kyrgyzstan continues to grow with each passing day and my Russian vocabulary will hopefully start doing the same soon!

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