I attended a law summer school. “So what?” you say. The number of summer schools is much higher than number of articles and theses about Van Gen en Loos and I am definitely neither the first nor last who “went nuts and voluntarily spent two holiday weeks in a camp full of lawyers”, as my brother briefly summed up the insolvable issue of insufficient free time.
If you ask, why I even write an article about summer school (and seven months after it ended), please be informed, that I do not intend to bore you by rewriting every topic and question we came across. Firstly, it would take a load of time (yours and mine as well) and space and secondly I would not be able to correctly summarize that many topics and questions concerning the four freedoms guaranteed by EU law. Yes, exactly, those were the topic of the 6th year of this summer school organised by Czech Common Law Society held at the Charles University in Prague.
The main objective of this article is to present to you why and mainly how was this particular summer school magnificent and unique. No, I am not a member of the Common Law Society and I write this article nec vi, nec clam, nec precario, even without a remuneration request. Its uniqueness is embodied in the combination of (i.) setting (ii.) content (iii.) quality (iv.) atmosphere and last but not least (v.) price. So, applying step by step principle:
To begin with, the entire school takes place in a picturesque setting of Giant Mountains (well, they are not that giant, the highest peak – Sněžka with a summit at 1,603 metres/5,259 ft), in Patejdlova Cottage, approx. 45 minutes of brisk walking (or ca. 10 minutes by car) uphill north of the village called Špindlerův Mlýn.
Not everybody likes mountains, but you still cannot find a lot of people, who would not replace the metropolitan smog by the air of a morning forest after rain. Lessons outside on the terrace are just not comparable to other summer schools – be careful, as the wind can easily take your case law and articles above the meadow around, do not miss a question due to birds singing, do not forget to spray a shared sunscreen on your scruff and many different “problems” which you don’t need to solve in a classroom inside.
The Original name of Patejdlova Cottage in Czech is Patejdlova Bouda (shortly Patejdlovka). I am not telling you this so you can google its beautiful images (however feel free to do so), but word bouda translates into English as a barn or dog kennel. Don’t be confused, the label bouda is purely historical. In fact, it was reconstructed a few years ago and this lovely cottage, sponsored by the Charles University, offers really luxurious services, such as a whirlpool or sauna, which are a perfect match with evening volleyball outside or ping-pong inside. The toughest challenge of eating was, how to explain to foreigners, that English word dumpling represents more than 3-4 kinds of various side dishes in Czech. Apart from that, be prepared for two weeks of the true Czech cuisine full of gulash, potato soups and others (also sweet) delicacies.
Secondly, the tuition takes place on working days, divided into three ca. 90-minutes blocks. Two of them in the morning, break for lunch followed by free (=reading) time and the third block ends just before dinner. Hugely generalizing, there was a ca. 100-120 pages long reading from day to day. It is quite difficult to evaluate, if it is too much or not, but reading was often split within working groups and, to be honest, I didn’t find a miserably written or boring article. By any means, school is quite demanding, but still not dictatorial – it can provide you with a load of new knowledge, but doesn’t force you to do 100% of everything. On the other side of scale, however, it doesn’t let you go under 70-80%. :-)
Third, collections of interesting articles would be useless if its content is presented in a boring way. First-rate lecture-to-lecture preparation of regular lecturers (Zuzana Vikarská and Jan Komárek) in connection with the variety of visiting guest lecturers (Catherine Barnard, Marko Ilešič, Daniel Sarmiento, Stefaan Van den Bogaert, Alberto Alemanno, Damjan Kukovec, Maja Brkan, Ciaran Burke) gave us the possibility to dive into not so clear depths of EU law using various diving techniques, but every time with a skilled and certified guide. Lectures were catchy, pacey and besides questions they were only disturbed by hungry stomach sounds.
To continue, I personally consider the atmosphere that we managed to form as the most valuable asset of this particular summer school. To use another cliché, it is not that simple to describe it in words. CLS Summer School is not a regular summer school in which you are in a big city, decently dressed up on lectures and after they end, everybody scatters. Sounds funny, but it reminds me of some kind of “child camp for adults”, where participants voluntarily come and where a group of young, intelligent people with similar minds meets (honestly, when you think about it, a group of people, who instead of free time decide to educate themselves also during holidays must have many character attributes in common :-P). Moreover, this year’s group was really international, 25 participants from 15 countries.
You are practically spending every minute together: you sit at benches and desks, flip book pages (but meat on grill too!), you are trying to figure out what the heck Luxemburgish ladies and misters in gowns mean by that paragraph, you shout goal during total annihilation of Brazil during the World Cup, chase the ball around volleyball pitch or around the ping-pong table, you sweat not only in the sauna, but also at Moot Court trying to persuade the bench that alcohol propagation just cannot be prohibited, you tramp around forest and pathways in Giant Mountains, swim in really non-thermal White Labe, try to convince your Czech colleagues that a glass of cold milk perfectly fits blueberry dumplings (brought to you by Martinova Bouda), or you are just sitting on the terrace accompanied by immortal Pink Floyd waiting for a beautiful mountain sunrise.
I gained a feeling that regular enjoyable evening sessions together with colleagues and lecturers from all around Europe taught me about EU law much more than I learned from my studies at university. Apropos lecturers, one fact says it all: every one of them came in their free time and without any remuneration requests [!] and believe me, we are talking about not only European crème de la crème (ECJ, Cambridge, Oxford, LSE, Leuven, Leiden, Maastricht, Harvard). For some of them it was their second time teaching on the CLS Summer School and they were all informal, kind, helpful, willing to give useful advice and keen on answering any question.
Lastly, how much do they charge for this magnificent experience? For the whole two week course, with full board in a beautiful cottage in the middle of the most widely known Czech national park, for an intensive tuition by the European elite, you pay EUR 500,-. Of course, you need to add travelling expenses, pocket money, but those who are considering or choosing between more summer schools know that 500,- Euros is absolutely incomparable, matchless price.
To conclude, if you managed to read your way here, it is solely in your own interest not to miss next near – mark two weeks in the middle of July 2015 and express your interest here (you can also check video and photos from past years). You will return home with a cleared and reset head, but at the same time heavy-loaded with new knowledge. You surely agree it is a combination difficult to achieve, maybe even possible once a year. :-)