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New Study Abroad Programs Add International Perspective

Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011

Italy, France and Australia programs added to law students’ options

By Steffi Lau

Traveling, riding elephants bareback, feeding tiger cubs, and getting to meet people from all over the world? Not bad for a semester at law school.

Last year, Annie Deng ’11 studied at the University of Hong Kong as part of USC Law’s study abroad program. The experience was not only fun, but also incredibly educational. There, Deng got to travel, meet students and professors from all over the world and gain an international view of law as well as valuable personal skills. 

Vietnam
 Deng on an overnight cruise in Halong Bay, Vietnam

“I would encourage everyone to study abroad at some point in life,” Deng said. “It teaches you to immerse yourself in a different culture, be independent in a foreign country and survive different environments.”

With the recent addition of Bond University in Queensland, Australia, Bocconi University in Milan, Italy and Jean Moulin University in Lyon, France to the law school’s study abroad options, more USC law students now have the opportunity to have an experience like Deng’s.

The choices originally included the semester program at the University of Hong Kong and a year-long dual degree program at the London School of Economics. Students will have the opportunity to study abroad in all five programs starting next semester.

The addition of the programs was to satisfy the growing interest in study abroad programs from current and prospective J.D. students.

“More students are thinking about study abroad opportunities during law school,” said Anne Marlenga, assistant director of graduate and international programs at USC Law.

USC Law has been approached by a number of foreign universities hoping to start exchange programs. But the agreements with law schools in Italy, France and Australia were chosen based on results from a survey of student interest, faculty input, and research on the partner institutions including their other top U.S. law school partners. The school hopes to expand the offerings even more over time.

Milan
Milan, Italy

The addition of the new programs allows the school to be more competitive and opens up more spaces to students. USC Law allows two students per semester the opportunity to study abroad in each program location in order to comply with regulations by the American Bar Association, so the increase in programs will allow more students the chance to participate.

Each of the programs allows for both outgoing and incoming exchange students, so students at USC Law also get international exposure from the students visiting from the other schools.

“They add a lot to the classroom because they share different perspectives and international experience. It allows students here to receive an international exposure,” Marlenga said.

Bond University
Bond University in Queensland, Australia

To Deng, exposure to people from all over the world while abroad was eye-opening.

“Everyone has a different worldview from each other, so it makes for an interesting discussion,” she said. “It was informative to learn law from an international perspective, too. USC is centered on the American experience, but Hong Kong has commonwealth law because of its British heritage, so professors discussed cases from all over—UK, Australia, Canada.”

Opportunities Abroad vs. Activities at Home: A Trade-Off?
Deng says that some law students might be concerned that if they study abroad, it’s not viewed as taking their studies seriously.

“Don’t worry, you can still do everything you want to do,” Deng said she would tell aspiring study abroad students. “You get an amazing journey, you get to travel.”

Lyon
Jean Moulin University in Lyon, France

Deng took full advantage of the travel opportunity. During the holidays, Deng visited mainland China, Vietnam, Singapore, Macau and Thailand, where she got to ride an elephant bareback and play with tiger cubs.

“Hong Kong has a lot of holidays because it has all the British Western holidays and the Chinese holidays,” she laughed. 

Thailand
Deng riding an elephant in Thailand

Deng enjoyed the international experience so much she now hopes to return to China to work in the future. “Part of the trip for me was seeing if I could like living there and I really loved it,” she said.

Aside from the international exposure, each school has its own strengths. Bocconi University is the oldest business school in Italy, so students interested in business law might be interested in that program. The London School of Economics is particularly strong in human rights law.

“Each school can offer something different,” Marlenga said.

International Experience Valuable for Practitioners
The dual degree program at the London School of Economics is also unique in that students get to earn an LL.M. degree through the program.

“It was a pretty unique opportunity to get a chance to go to Europe and get two degrees when most people get one,” said Josh Kroot ’09, who studied abroad at the London School of Economics  during the 2008-2009 academic year.

London School of Economics

Kroot is now working in New York City at SNR Denton, an international law firm.

The knowledge he gained abroad has been invaluable to him as a practicing lawyer.

“We deal with transactions and cases that are cross-border all the time where some plaintiffs are not U.S. entities,” Kroot said. “Particularly, understanding how securities law works in the UK and understanding differences between U.S. and European regulations has been really helpful.”

But beyond classes, it’s clear that what study abroad students value most is the opportunity to meet different people.

For Kroot, the international exposure gave him a better understanding of current events.

“On a personal level, I think I have better insight into what’s going on in Europe and where European attitudes are rooted,” he said. “With the unrest in Greece last year, having been out there and having studied with students from Greece, I had some insight into what was going on.”

Additionally, many students in the programs are professionals who have been practicing for years and are being sent by the government or their companies to get training.

“Some people were fairly high up in international banks and legal institutions. Some people were judges. It was great getting to meet them because in law school in the U.S., there are many accomplished people, but they don’t have a track record in law. Having a chance to get to know people in positions of power was really invaluable,” Kroot said.

Friends
Deng eating dimsum with other international law
students at City Hall in Hong Kong

Kroot said he still keeps up with many of his friends from studying abroad. 

“The networking is unbelievable,” Marlenga said. “You meet students from all around the U.S. and all around the world. They meet those friends and keep them for forever.”

Deng agreed.

“The best thing was being able to meet so many people from different backgrounds, who all study law, are all brilliant and would be great international contacts in the future,” Deng said. “Your friends and the classes themselves have very different perspectives and it teaches you to think of the world in different ways.”
 

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