By Nevada McEniry-Hatajlo
I was supposed to do a major European trip this summer. Every time I travel, I research for a while, and eventually create a massive map with points of interest and activities to do. I’m a ‘see-all-no-time-to-stop’ kind of traveler. From June to August 2020, I was going to be living in Sofia, Bulgaria. I’ve never lived away from home for that long, nor traveled that long by myself. The idea of being away from friends and family for that time was difficult to deal with. I was also nervous about living in a foreign city, in which I didn’t speak the local language, or could even read the alphabet. It took a lot of time to adjust to this opportunity, but ultimately, I was over the moon.
And then as we all know, the world was put on pause when COVID-19 hit. I’m in my last semester of law school, and this would have been my only opportunity to do anything abroad before I graduated. It’s been a whirlwind of emotion, from grief, to sadness, to relief and happiness that I would be with family during this unexpected and stressful time. And ever since lockdown, time feels as if it has stood still. Strangely, however, it feels as if it has gone by too quickly as well. As I’m writing this, I feel as if my internship is almost over, when I don’t even feel as if it has started in the first place.
I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue a remote internship with the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL), and I am incredibly thankful that the organizers, Nadia Shabani and Anna Adamova, were able to accommodate me. We’ve met several times over Zoom to discuss my topic and progress, and they’ve provided me with great resources and contacts to help me with my research. They are…so nice. They are caring and engaging individuals, and I feel as if I know, even though I’ve never met them in person.
What I’ve struggled with the most, as I know everyone else has, is transitioning from in person to remote work. Motivation and concentration have been equally difficult to harness. I find that I need to create lists to push myself to do the work. I get easily distracted by the comforts of my own home, by the cat, and by the current events. We are witnessing such a tumultuous time, fraught with protests, violence, corruption, greed, and discrimination. I tend to be an empathetic learner, and because of that, it’s hard not to feel despair during this time. This is probably the biggest obstacle for me during this remote internship.
For this reason, I asked my supervisors if I could direct my work towards what’s currently happening in the world. I’ve directed my research to explore what it means to exercise your right to assembly during a global pandemic. When Montreal hosted their first Black Lives Matter demonstration, the COVID numbers in Montreal were still way too high. I was very uncomfortable leaving the house, let alone participating in a demonstration involving thousands of individuals. It was upsetting that I was debating staying home, when I felt this urgency to support and be the best ally I can be. I’m glad I went, but it still terrified me. I thankfully haven’t experienced any loss due to COVID, but I have very close friends who have, and I’ve seen how serious this virus is.
This internship has been helpful in coping. By virtue of the subject matter I chose for my report, I’m learning about an ever-unfolding chain of events as its happening, and this has provided me with stability and comfort. I just need to keep at it and be kind to myself when I get emotionally exhausted.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re all doing well!