This is an account of the author’s (real) experiences at the Stetson International Environmental Moot Court International Finals from 11 to 17 April 2023, as told through a series of fictitious diary entries.
Wednesday, 12 April, 1.34 pm, Airspace, Somewhere Over the Atlantic
If Week 13 is Hell Week, then my hell is a Eurowings flight bound for Tampa, Florida.
The fluffy grey blanket (which I was so grateful for when we first boarded) has sadly revealed its true, treacherous nature as a health hazard – the light polyester fibres have liberated themselves into airborne fuzz, eventually settling on my clothes, hair, and eyes. It is a full flight; the cabin is packed with German tourists and noisy kinder, who climb on their seats and occasionally, topple the contents of their meal trays on the floor. There is inflight entertainment, but earpieces cost €2 a pop.
Not that we have the time to watch movies. Behind me, my teammate, Yan Ren, is working on his case for the Stetson International Environmental Moot Court which awaits us in Florida. Next to me, our other teammate, Tong Xin, is trying to churn out her Jurisprudence research paper, due one day after we get back to Singapore. Me? I’m reading Asher’s Consti muggers.
When I signed up to audition for the Stetson moot back in September 2022, I didn’t think I would make the team. I didn’t think we would make it to the international stage of the competition, and I certainly didn’t think we would be flying across the Atlantic Ocean two weeks before Finals.
And yet, here we are. It’s funny how life surprises you, though I’m not so sure I’ll be laughing in 14 days’ time.
We checked in at Changi Airport at 8 pm last night for the first leg of our flight from Singapore to Frankfurt, transited at cold, grey Frankfurt Airport for 5 hours (in clothing that was entirely unsuited to the 7°C weather). Then, we boarded this flight at 11.30 am with all the German tourists. In all, we have been travelling for 20 hours so far. In ‘real’ time, however, only 12 hours have passed (timezones suck). I feel sleepy and grimy, which makes sense because my last shower was more than a day ago, even if the clock says otherwise.
A child screams, two rows in front of me.
I can’t wait for this flight to be over.
(Still) Wednesday, 12 April, 9.51 pm, Airbnb
Writing this in bed with heavy eyelids.
We landed at around 4 pm, local time; I texted Prof Burton (who had arrived in Tampa before us) to let him know.
Yan Ren and Tong Xin had their dinner at the airport. I was still feeling full, so I scouted the airport souvenir shop for a hairbrush (having forgotten to pack one in my haste since I was still typing and printing my speech minutes before leaving the house in anticipation of not having a printer in Florida). Then, we took a taxi ride – which cost an eye-watering $100 – in search of our Airbnb.
We booked an Airbnb instead of a hotel because there are no hotels in the vicinity of the competition venue, the Stetson University College of Law. It was just a 15-minute walk away, and after factoring in travel fare between the hotel and Stetson, the Airbnb was just way cheaper.
It started drizzling as we got out of the taxi. To make matters worse, we couldn’t find the door. According to the host, there was supposed to be a number pad where we needed to key in the passcode. Yan Ren went around the perimeter of the property to look for it, only for us to realise that the front ‘gate’ we were standing in front of had been unlocked all along (the number pad was on the door located further inside, after the gate).
My first impressions of the Airbnb: Despite being cheaper than a hotel, the Airbnb is way nicer. There are three bedrooms (meaning we each get our own room), two bathrooms, a dining area and kitchen, a living room, and a heated swimming pool that we won’t be getting much use out of this week.
After unpacking, we walked to Walmart to get groceries. I had cup noodles for dinner and took a shower before climbing into bed. Hopefully, I’m tired enough to avoid the worst of jet lag.
First day of the moot starts tomorrow.
Thursday, 13 April, 12.03 pm, Great Hall
The day is going great, no sign of jet lag (so far).
I woke up in a much clearer state of mind. Unfortunately, there are downsides to mental clarity. The very first thing I realised after getting out of bed: when I went to sleep at 10 pm last night, I inadvertently skipped Prof Penner’s Equity & Trusts Q&A session over Zoom, which was 10 – 11 am on Thursday 13 April in Singapore time (before dozing off, I had mentally reminded myself to attend the Zoom call this morning at 10 am before our first round, forgetting that I was now 12 hours behind).
Prof Burton stopped by our Airbnb with breakfast (cereal + oat milk, some strawberry yoghurt) and groceries at 8 am. Then, we all walked to the competition venue together, taking a longer route to avoid roadworks.
The Stetson University College of Law looks like something out of a movie. The campus used to be a Spanish-themed hotel called the Hotel Rolyat, built back in the Roaring 20s before the Great Depression. It was designed to look like a Spanish feudal castle. Prof Burton kept making us stop and take photos in front of anything that looked even remotely picturesque (basically everything) for his moot trailer.
We are currently eating lunch, which has been catered from a local ‘Florribean’ restaurant. It looks like cai png and tastes like a more atas version of Guzman y Gomez. The Ukrainian team has just finished their presentation on the environmental impact of the war with Russia. Now, we're listening to a lecture on the effects of high bycatch and habitat-destroying fishing on maritime piracy. Competition matchups will be announced after lunch.
Thursday, 13 April, 4.01 pm, Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library
A List of Stuff the Stetson Law Library Has That CJ Koh Doesn’t (And That We Could Really Use):
- Communal puzzle tables (that we lost Prof Burton to for a while)
- An Elvis standee
- Therapy animals during exam season
- A pet wall where Stetson students contribute photos of their pets.
- A book nook outside the library where students can pick up books even when the library is closed
It turns out I’m not speaking today after all as we have been assigned Azarlus (the applicant) for both the preliminary rounds happening today (I am mooting for the respondent, Rathearre).
In between rounds, I took the opportunity to explore the law library and befriended the librarian, Sally, who has been at Stetson for 40 years. She has extended me an open invite to come back and use the library printers if I ever need to print anything over the next few days. I also visited the school bookshop, and purchased a Champion ‘Stetson Law’ T-shirt.
Thursday, 13 April, 9.41 pm, Living room, Airbnb
Rewriting the closing of my speech after team practice with Yan Ren and Tong Xin.
Taylor Swift is in Tampa this weekend. On Prof Burton’s suggestion, I am trying to incorporate a Taylor Swift lyric into my closing statement in a blatant attempt to score points with the (mostly local) judges.
My first attempt at rewriting the closing was extremely unfruitful. I ended up writing a poem which summarised the entire moot problem using only Taylor Swift song titles. I joked about reading it out in full tomorrow, but Yan Ren shut that suggestion down (swift-ly?) by groaning and saying he would walk out of the round tomorrow if I actually followed through.
I guess he felt that the judges might not be Ready For It.
Friday, 14 April, 5.17 pm, the Mann Lounge
Done with all four preliminary rounds! We are waiting nervously for the announcement on which teams have broken to the quarterfinals (and will have to return tomorrow), and which teams will get to spend their day at the beach.
Keeping my fingers crossed. As a precaution, I went around the campus to take photos of everything in case (touch wood) we don’t break.
Friday, 14 April, 8.05 pm, Tyrone Square Mall
And so did the other three Southeast Asian teams we met at the Southeast Asia Regional Rounds (SMU, University of Saint Agustin and University of the Philippines). After agonising for some time over which side to choose, we decided to go with Rathearre (which means I am speaking tomorrow. Gulp).
So, why are we at the mall instead of heading straight back to the Airbnb to prep?
The full story would take too long to write; here’s the abridged version: Tong Xin lost her black formal jacket on the way to Stetson today. We couldn’t find it anywhere despite retracing our steps all the way back to the Airbnb, so we are here to pick up a new jacket for Tong Xin from Macy’s, and dinner from the food court. I had a grilled chicken sandwich and a frosted lemonade from Chick-fil-A.
We are standing outside the mall right now, waiting for an Uber back to the Airbnb. We are just in time to catch the sunset, which looks like someone has gone over the sky with a streaky orange highlighter. Beautiful.
Friday Saturday, 15 April, 1 am, Airbnb living room
We are still up, going over the respondent speeches. Even though she is not speaking tomorrow, Tong Xin has stayed up to bench us too (and for solidarity). Up until 20 minutes ago, when we turned around and realised that she was fast asleep on the sofa.
Yan Ren is coaching me through my responses to questions he thinks might come up tomorrow from the bench. Very little of this is sinking in, and I don’t trust myself to remember any of it during the round tomorrow.
I am worried about letting my team down. Everyone will be disappointed and Tong Xin will have bought her new jacket for nothing.
I feel incredibly frustrated with myself. Law school is full of people who seem to take to mooting effortlessly; I have never been one of them. It is a shameful secret I have carried since I tried out for the team, way before we got to Florida: I’m just not as good of a mooter as my teammates.
Saturday, 15 April, 10.30 am, the Mann Lounge
Lost to the Law Society of Ireland. We are out. ☹
Saturday, 15 April, 12.22 pm, Comfort Café
Prof Burton decided we were in dire need of some cheering up. We are eating pancakes at a diner that was a thirty-minute walk away from Stetson.
Now that the moot is over, sharks and pirates no longer feature in our mealtime conversation. Instead, we discuss more pressing things like the upcoming finals (GASP), the education system (a conversation which drifted to CCAs, for some reason) and books.
I am still sad about how the moot went and – if I’m being honest – a little sorry to say goodbye to the royal frilled sharks. Stetson has featured prominently in my life for nearly the whole academic year, and I’ve learned so much and grown as a mooter. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still no way I will ever be drafted for the Jessup team. But I’m definitely a better mooter than I was in September last year.
(Note to future self: If sad, remember that pancakes always make everything better.)
Saturday, 15 April, 4.07 pm, Florin Roebig Courtroom
We will not be flying home empty-handed after all – we won Third Place Memorial. (Prof Burton says this should hammer home the importance of writing a good memorial, even though it is due at an early stage in the preparation process, in November.)
After the pancakes, we headed back to Stetson to watch the final round between the University of West Bengal and the Law Society of Ireland. In a shocking reversal of yesterday, all four Southeast Asian teams were eliminated before the finals (NUS and SMU at quarters, and Saint Agustin and UP at semis).
While waiting for the results to be announced, there was an ‘easter egg quiz’ where participants unscrambled the anagrams of the names mentioned in the moot problem and shouted the answers to win leftover Stetson coffee mugs and shirts (‘Rathearre’ = rare earth; ‘Azarlus’ = Lazarus; ‘Pam Leo C Tilly’ = Polymetallic).
There was a funny moment where Prof Gardner announced that someone had won a ‘big prize’ for explaining what Schrodinger’s Cat (in a moot problem reference to ‘Schrodinger’s fish’) was.
The ‘big prize’ turned out to be a spare East Asia Regional Rounds sweatshirt with the word ‘EARR’ printed on it.
Sunday, 16 April, 8.54 am, St Pete Pier/Cassis Bakery
Just watched the sunrise on the St Pete Pier. We all woke up at 5 (despite planning to sleep in) and decided to catch the sunrise. Almost missed it due to bad traffic in downtown St Pete, but we got our pretty sunrise photos in the end!
The plan for the rest of today:
- Return to the Airbnb, shower, pack (no idea how I’m going to fit everything into my 20-inch luggage), and check out by the 11 am deadline
- Uber to the airport, have lunch there
- Buy shark souvenirs for Prof Burton and Prof El
- Board flight to Frankfurt
- AVOID inhaling grey blanket fuzz on Eurowings flight (leave it in its original packaging, DO NOT unwrap!!)
(but it feels like Day 5 continued)
Monday, 17 April, 10 am, Frankfurt Airport Transit Area
Arrived in Frankfurt. We have a 12-hour layover ahead of us.
Yan Ren is heading out of the airport for a speed-run of Frankfurt. Tong Xin and I are staying in the airport to sleep and study for Finals.
We are back to 7°C weather and I am freezing. Also, all of the power points at the boarding gates are mysteriously broken.
Monday, 17 April, 6.20 pm, Hausmann’s Restaurant at Frankfurt Airport Public Area
Still at Frankfurt Airport. Tong Xin and I took a break from studying to have lunch at an overpriced Italian restaurant in the transit area that actually made me miss Summit food.
Determined not to repeat our mistake for dinner, we found a nice German restaurant located in the airport. There was just one slight problem: it was in the public area, which meant we had to go through immigration to get to it (and Tong Xin does not have a European visa).
I managed to convince the immigration officials that I was just heading out to dabao dinner for my friend from the public area. So that’s the story of how I have two Frankfurt stamps that are minutes apart on the same page in my passport.
Yan Ren has just texted to inform us that he is on his way back (with German bread and chocolate for us).
Monday, 17 April, 9.45 pm, LH 778 (still at Frankfurt Airport)
On our way home. The moot may be over, but I am constantly reminded that bigger challenges await us in Singapore.
(but feels like it's only Day 6)
Wednesday, 18 April, 3.28 am, at home
We landed at Changi Airport at 4.20 pm on Tuesday. After saying goodbye at the airport, I headed home to unpack and sleep.
I found myself awake in bed in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. It seems that the dreaded jetlag (which I managed, miraculously, to siam for the entire moot) has finally found its way to me.
Where did Tuesday go? It feels like an entire day has somehow been deleted from my life. I check the date on my phone again.
It is a sobering reminder that finals begin in 5 days.
Audition sign-ups for the 2024 edition of the Stetson Moot close on 19 September 2023!
For a more academic perspective of what the moot entails, read this helpimlawst forum post by Ziqin's teammate, Tan Yan Ren.