My name is Charmaine Magosvongwe and I am a young and enthusiastic lawyer from Zimbabwe. I am currently enrolled in the Human Rights and Multilevel Governance Master program at the University of Padova, brought here by my desire to deepen my knowledge in human rights, international law and diplomacy. Before I embarked on this journey, I had certain ideals and expectations of how my experience would turn out. I had imagined attending classes in the ancient buildings of Padova and I dreamt of taking coffee breaks in the charming bars dotted around the city. I also had hopes of traveling around Italy attending exhibitions and museums, but none of these dreams were realized due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic changed the world as we know it. While I cannot begin to fathom the challenges faced by students all over the world, one thing we have in common is that we were all robbed of a holistic academic experience. We had to adapt to unusual learning conditions and we were deprived of personal interactions, amongst other things.
I am tempted to dive into all the things that went wrong in the last year such as moving to a new country during a pandemic and experiencing a cultural-shock, or even better, being constricted to the walls of my apartment for the greater part of the year due to lockdown rules.
However, in the spirit of positivity I would like to share the pleasant experiences and opportunities I came across at the University of Padova. Before I started my studies, I dared myself to step out of my comfort zone and become more proactive in the academic scene. Once my mind was set, a lot of opportunities started presenting themselves before me. I will talk about the 2 main opportunities I took part in.
The first activity I participated in was the Padova UPR Model in November 2020. This was a very exciting event where students from all over the world were selected to simulate the United Nations Universal Periodic Review involving the assessment of human rights records of member states. It was a great opportunity for networking, though the event was online. My favorite highlights were the simulation days when representatives of member states and NGOs made their presentations. The presentations were informative, relevant and realistic. My teammate and I gave an outstanding performance landing us the best team award in our category. It was very fulfilling and rewarding to have our efforts acknowledged because we had put in over 3 months of hard work and research.
A few months down the line, I was selected to represent the University of Padova Team in the Children’s Rights Moot Court Competition hosted by Leiden University, Netherlands. The stakes were high since it was the first time the University of Padova participated in such an international competition. I was teamed up with 3 phenomenal ladies whose performance was exceptional throughout the competition. For 5 months our lives evolved around vigorous research, case-law and several online meetings. In the end, our unwavering dedication and research made for an outstanding performance and led us to the Quarterfinals. We were part of the 8 best teams out of 96 worldwide. The 8 final teams competed against each other making oral presentations presided over by renowned lawyers and law professors from all over the world. In the end, we were not the overall winners, but we received a lot of positive feedback regarding our written memorials, oral presentations and persuasiveness. Perhaps the biggest challenge I faced throughout the year was time management. I had to juggle between my academics, student-job and extracurricular activities. It was extremely difficult to keep my head afloat academically, whilst working 6 hours a day and participating in so many projects. If I must be honest, I felt like I was biting off more than I could chew. Well, sometimes you don’t know how strong and resilient you are until you try! In this spirit, I adopted new study methods and learnt to study more efficiently and effectively, thus passing all courses with great scores. However, most importantly, I would not have made it without a good support system comprising of my family and friends who were always a call away rooting for me.
The moral of this story is in the eyes of the beholder but, if I had to choose one, it would certainly be a simple but powerful thing I was reminded of during these harsh times: the comfort zone is a wonderful place, but nothing ever grows there.
Written by Charmaine Magosvongwe
Edited by Alex Frattin
Picture courtesy of Charmaine Magosvongwe
Charmaine is a 2nd year HRG student passionate about international law and diplomacy. She is proudly African and feels obliged to represent the beautiful continent in the international arena. Follow Charmaine on Instagram at: charmaine.20
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