Posted by: Vieshnavi Rattehalli | March 25, 2010

The Office Life + Class & Festivale du Chocolat, CERN

Many apologies to everyone, as this post is long overdue. I haven’t had a chance to upload pictures/charge my camera battery so I’ll come back and add in pictures later.

The Office Life

My spring break was anything but relaxing (traveling is EXHAUSTING), and then I jumped right into the second stage of this program: the internship and the IO class.  My working hours in my first week of internship were absolutely horrendous, though it’s eased up now.  I was working 9 am to 7:30 pm, but I still had class reading (okay, let’s be real, when was the last time I read for this class?), but more importantly, I had to write my paper for the IO class.  I wish I could detail the work I do for my internship, but there’s a lot that is of a sensitive nature.  I work at Alkarama for Human Rights, an NGO that was founded in 2004 by a team of volunteers and lawyers.  Alkarama works to represent people who have been victims of extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, or enforced disappearances, appealing to applicable UN bodies to take international action against the offending state.  The organization has offices in Geneva, London, Beirut, Doha (Qatar), and Yemen, but there are lawyers who work for Alkarama in many other Arab countries.

Despite being given a hefty workload in the first week on the job, I like  working at AlKarama. The project to which I have been assigned is the major project for several other employees in the office and the parts I complete are final productions.  I’m working on human rights violations with regard to the Gulf states.  I like that I’m being challenged from the professional aspect: the work I did this week was held to higher standard than in past internships and the type of documents I create are different from what I have written in the past.  These 3 weeks have pointed me in the direction I think I’d like to take the work I do.  I’d still like to work for the U.S. Foreign Service or the State Department but I want to work on reforming political structures to address human rights violations and bring justice for all people.

The Activities of International Organizations class

Having class for an entire day is really tiresome. We have 3 hours on Thursday morning, break for lunch, and then class all afternoon/evening.  I’m always so tired by the time I get home from work that I don’t have the energy to worry about class/reading… I’ll catch up over Easter? The way this class works is that we discuss different arenas of activities of international organizations each week.  Last week, I presented my paper, and so did 3 other people.  We gave summaries of the paper and then did an oral defense – just a basic question and answer session.  The topic was on international peace and security… my paper was on UN and NATO actions in Afghanistan.  The paper reads like a policy brief and looks like a Model UN background guide.  It wasn’t too bad, I just felt it dragged out way too long and took over my life for 2 weeks. Uncool.

This week we’re talking about Human Rights… and the current presentation is on the Universal Periodic Review. Then, there are 3 more presentations, all relating to HR treaties.  Interestingly, the United States has not signed a human rights treaty since 2002… and it also failed the its review with the UPR due to infringement of rights during the war on terror (and cough*Guantánamo*cough).   I need to come up with a question to ask to show participation and effort… but the topics are either dry or explaining UN bodies that I already know the structure of… (Thanks MUN!)  Carla, the program director, has decided that a plate of chocolate eggs is the best break-time present. YAY chocolate!

Festivale du Chocolat

On a much happier note, last Saturday was the Festivale du Chocolat in Versoix, and let’s be real, of course I went.  Taylor was visiting Geneva so he came along, and …most of my house did too.  There was a giant tent set up and inside all of these specialty chocolate vendors set up little tables (like SPLASH! but so much better).  Mike found out (from Carla, I think) that the vendors get discounted rates on renting the tables if they give away more samples.  I’m totally not going to argue with that.  I ate probably 30 or 40 little pieces of chocolate or chocolate covered fruit/nuts/gummy candy.  I also had a cup of chocolate with apples in it, and a brownie.  I really wanted to buy a bag of chocolate, but I refrained.  Migros obviously needs my business.

choco sheep

choco display

After the Chocolate Festival, we were waiting for the bus back to Geneva, and Mike asked us if we’d be interested in seeing CERN, which I was ALL IN FAVOR OF.  For those of you who don’t know, CERN is the European Center for Nuclear Research.  It’s the home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which was built to further research in particle physics.  The ATLAS and CMS experiments at the LHC are currently searching for the Higgs boson, which gives particles in the universe mass.  There’s way more to all this than I can possibly understand, so I’m going to stop talking before I confuse myself and say something completely nonsensical.  Final question of the day: where did all the antimatter go? (If you still don’t know what I’m talking about – Angels and Demons – Antimatter!)  We got the guided tour through the museum, and then Mike showed us the CMS control room… I’m hoping Andrea has access to the ATLAS control room,  because that would be SWEET.

First Internet Server. Ever.


After CERN, Mike and Taylor realized I’d never seen Boondock Saints.  Apparently that’s blasphemy since I’ve lived in Boston for 3 years… oops. So we watched that and Inglorious Bastards. I proceeded to sleep for… about 14 hours, must have been tired.  Oh, and apparently my computer was missing something useful/important, but now, after 70 hours of work on it (Thanks, Mike), it’s running 600x faster, and apparently isn’t missing a home directory anymore. Woo.

I’ll try to update again soon, especially since I’m going (if weather permits) paragliding this weekend.

❤ Ciao!



  1. Your internship sounds really neat and like an amazing experience. And, even though I don’t like chocolate, the chocolate festival thing sounds awesome too. I’m glad you’re having a good time in Switzerland! I’m definitely super jealous though!

  2. I have always wanted to do go to the Festivale du chocolat. You have no idea how jalouse I am. Did you get to see the MASSIVE chocolate sculpture?

  3. Your internship sounds incredible. That’s great that they give you such important work to do as an intern and that it has helped you figure out what you want to do- what more could you ask for from an internship?

    And I am jealous of the chocolate festival. So. jealous.

  4. I’ve already talked to you (yay Skype!), but


    What is your life? *grin* Lucky duck.

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