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How I spent my summer abroad

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Updated 1/19/2017: If you’re interested in studying abroad, look over your options with our comprehensive law school study abroad directory.

Studying abroad is more than a fun jaunt. You immerse yourself in education, network, and achieve personal growth.

Here’s what studying abroad sounds like: You travel to a cool location, meet new people, take quick trips to even more places, and maybe you study a little. And you pay a lot for the experience.

That perception is only partly true. Yes, studying abroad often involves jetting to an exciting locale and meeting new people. And, yes, often students tack on additional travel while they’re overseas.

But many students have intense study or clinical experiences they’d never have if they stayed on campus. They also begin building relation-ships that will serve them through-out their career. And studying abroad does require a financial commitment, but it’s often no more — or not much more — than you’d pay for coursework stateside.

If you’ve got the study abroad bug but have been wondering about the details, look no further. Here, five students who traveled to four inter-national destinations explain why they took the opportunity and how they financed it. They also spell out the coursework they completed and what they learned beyond the class-room. And finally, they offer tips to fellow students — perhaps you? — who’ve been itching to spread their wings but unsure about whether to take the plunge.

SINGAPORE

Different Culture, Religions, Business Practices — and Food!
By Jessica Canedo
JESSICA CANEDO is a 3L at Mercer University — Walter F. George School of Law in Macon, Ga.

My decision to study abroad had been in the works for a long time. I love to travel and learn about different cultures and parts of the world. I didn’t take advantage of the study abroad programs during my undergraduate studies, so I knew I wasn’t going to pass up on another opportunity in law school.

I traveled to Singapore the summer after my first year in law school, and it’s probably one of my best decisions. When I was looking for places to study, Singapore was definitely not on my radar. I was convinced by one of the Santa Clara University study abroad ambassadors, and I’m so glad I listened to her suggestion. I learned so much about different religions, cultures, business practices, and especially food.  The food is probably the most memorable part of  my experience. I earned four credits for the course I took with the program, South Eastern Asian Business and Human Rights. It wasn’t a typical law school course; it was taught in lecture form. We went to class every day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a long break midway, and the rest of the day was ours to do whatever we wished.

Before the course began, the professor sent us the readings in PDF form so we could get started in advance. That way, we were able to get ahead on our homework and didn’t have to worry about it while we were in Singapore. There was a final exam at the end of the course, but it was nothing to stress over.

Outside the classroom, we were taken on various field trips. The first day of class, we toured the city and learned Singaporean history. In another tour, we were able to explore “Little India” and Arab Street. That was probably my favorite tour because our guide introduced us to delicious food and took us to very interesting places. We visited a Hindu temple called a mandir and walked inside a mosque. We also visited all the Singaporean courts, including the Syariah Court, and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

Funding a study abroad can get expensive, but it’s worth every penny. I’ll always remember my experience in Singapore. Like most law students, I didn’t have the disposable funds available to pay for my study abroad, so thank goodness for financial aid! Federal loans are available to cover the costs of a study abroad. The funds include the cost of tuition, airfare, and living expenses while overseas. Ultimately, the overall cost of doing a study abroad wholly depends on the location and the time spent there. Many programs can be matched with an internship, too, but doing so will drive the total cost up because of living expenses.

Considering studying abroad yourself? A few words of advice: Reach out to former students who’ve completed the program you’re considering and ask them all your questions. Make sure to ask about the accommodations, especially if the pro-gram doesn’t offer any accommodations.

Also, a phone isn’t absolutely necessary, unless you’d feel more secure with a phone. Singapore is probably one of the safest places in the world, so I did not find a need for a phone and used my cell phone only when I had Wi-Fi Take some cash, but also check with your bank to ensure it offers protections for your bank card while you’re traveling. Some banks won’t, and that was a problem for me. Instead, I took a credit card and charged everything to it while I was abroad, then came home and paid it off with the funds I’d have otherwise used. Finally, remember to enjoy yourself! You’ll always remember this trip and the lessons you will learn.

PRAGUE

Affordable, Central, and Personal Learning
By Jessica Revils
JESSICA REVILS is a 2L at South Texas College of Law in Houston.

Like most twenty-somethings, my buck-et list is stacked with traveling throughout the world and experiencing the wonders and culture within it. However, between journals, moot court, organizations, working 20 hours a week, and reading another never-ending Scalia dissent just to decipher whether jurisdiction is proper, who could possibly find the time to travel across the world?

The answer: I did, and you can, too. As a 1L at South Texas College of Law in Houston, I was scared of the idea of never crossing off bucket-list items — but I was also scared of falling behind my peers in law school. Luckily, through the school’s study abroad program in Prague, Czech Republic, I was able to erase both of those fears and experience Europe while simultaneously earning eight cred-its and still having time to return for a judicial clerkship.

My advice is to start early, find room-mates, and contact your program advisor for resources to help you prepare. The information sessions at my school pro-vided me the information and testimonial experiences needed to prepare for my trip. For example, most programs allow financial aid and leave spending to the student’s discretion.

My program allowed students to find their own housing through resources like Airbnb and Travelocity, which provided an affordable way to fully embrace local Prague. Through similar resources I reviewed others’ experiences, compared options, and found safe and affordable hostels for trips, an inexpensive apartment in Prague, and tickets for travel accommodations. That type of planning saved me a lot of money. But at least once during my trip, for whatever reason, each of the students I studied abroad with changed plans at the last minute and ended up paying more than expected. To avoid this, I suggest purchasing the extra protection (usually around $10) that allows you to alter plans if needed.

Likewise, calling your medical insurance provider and checking your policy’s coverage is very important. In all likelihood, during your time abroad, one or more students will get sick. If that student is you, having a flexible policy that ensures coverage abroad is much safer and cheaper than seeking treatment without it in an unfamiliar medical system.

Finding a credit card that will benefit and not burden you is also important. I signed up with Charles Schwab banking because it offers mobile banking, 24-hour online help, and no extra fees for foreign transactions or ATM withdrawals. Through a power of attorney, my parents were able to transfer my financial aid funds into my account as needed so that I could keep track of how much I was spending and still have financial aid left for the fall semester upon my return.

Once you have everything secured, the biggest decision is where to study. My primary objective was saving money and earning course credit. Previously, South Texas has offered programs that include U.S. Supreme Court justices as professors. But unfortunately none were available when I planned to travel.

Instead, I chose the program in Prague because I was able to fulfill my federal income tax requirement. Programs that offer courses that fulfill requirements allow a more personal learning experience and ensure that your summer isn’t wasted with impractical electives. Furthermore, Prague offered the most convenient traveling and beneficial conversion rate. The money I saved in Prague allowed me to travel before, during, and after the program.

Among other things, I was able to visit friends in Denmark, travel to Rome and experience a moonlight tour of the Colosseum, tour Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, drink Champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset, visit World War II memorials in Berlin, see a Broadway production in London, and walk through castles and former concentration camps in the Czech Republic.

The biggest challenge to studying abroad is convincing yourself to go. But you’ll come back with great résumé boosters and conversation topics, as well as the ability to annoy all your friends who wish they’d gone by overusing foreign language, searching for Wi-Fi, asking for water with “no gas,” and talking about how much you miss the Motherland.

Whether you have the time to travel when you begin practicing law or not, the experience of studying abroad is one you simply can’t obtain elsewhere and shouldn’t pass up. The countless experiences, contacts, and friendships are indescribably beneficial and are things most people only dream of crossing off their bucket list.

NEW DEHLI

Human Rights Work for Credit
By Stacy Newman and Katie Chadliev
STACY NEWMAN AND KATIE CHADLIEV are both 3Ls at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law.

The International and Comparative Human Rights Practicum offered by our law school connects American law students with Indian law students in an attempt to identify, study, and rectify human rights violations migrant workers face in New Delhi.

The program provided us an opportunity to work directly with Indian workers and use our skills as advocates. The ability to help the world’s most vulnerable workers speaks to the highest ideals of justice.

Our fieldwork began the moment we arrived in New Delhi and lasted for three weeks. During the first week, we attended classroom-style sessions to learn about the Indian legal system. Students were then divided into small groups that focused on different human rights violations.

Some students focused on the working conditions of migrant workers, while others focused on the workers’ living conditions. The program also allowed students to address inequality in justice and freedom of association among migrant workers.

We both participated in the group responsible for documenting women workers’ housing conditions. During our fieldwork, the women invited us into their homes. They fed us, made us hot tea, and were open with their experiences and stories. Their courage in the face of so much adversity was inspiring. Their generosity and openness is something we’ll remember our entire lives.

After leaving New Delhi, we synthesized our interviews with workers into a report for the Special Rapporteur on Housing to the United Nations. Other students wrote theoretical frameworks for tackling the areas of greatest need. One group gathered statistics on hazards workers faced at their jobs.

No matter which path participants took, Boyd students produced written work that advocated for the human rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable workers.

Between classes and fieldwork, our free time was limited. However, most days we were able to explore the markets or historical sites before or after class. The whole group would also try new restaurants multiple times a week for dinner. We had one three-day weekend off that we spent traveling to Agra and Jaipur. We have now crossed off our bucket lists seeing the Taj Mahal!

We calculated the total cost of our program at $7,950 each. A benefit of this program is that un-like many travel abroad programs, these credits are graded — so we would have paid for these credits at some point. Also, the exchange rate of the dollar to the rupee played out in our favor.

When it comes to travel tips, first and foremost, we suggest you add travel to your travel. If possible, travel before, after, and during your study abroad experience. Take advantage of your time abroad and use it to experience everything you can. We went to Thailand beforehand, and it was an incredible four days. Visiting the temples and beaches is something neither of us will forget.

Second: If you’re traveling to an area with water issues, get a filtered water bottle. We used these throughout our trip with both tap water and bottled water. This way, you won’t have to worry about any contamination issues. They are also much lighter and cheaper than complex filtration machines.

Third: If you’re a woman, carry a scarf at all times. We often came across beautiful mosques and would have been unable to enter if we didn’t have some-thing to cover our heads.

Finally, it’s important to remember the bigger picture of such an experience. In our case, the workers we helped often worked within the supply chain for American corporations, affecting everyone who buys clothes in the United States.

It’s important for everybody who lives in a developed country to grasp how globalism affects developing nations. In a world where corporations can sell their goods in one nation but exploit the citizens of another, even simple awareness is a powerful tool to combat injustice. Each and every one of us who traveled to India this winter better understands power imbalances and the definition of justice.

LONDON

Study, Networking, and Travel
By Meggin Bednarczyk
MEGGIN BEDNARCZYK is a 2L at New York Law School.

When I found out that my law school offered a study abroad program in London, my interest was immediately piqued. You see, I first fell prey to wanderlust in high school, when I toured Europe one summer as the pianist of an orchestra. I’ve taken every opportunity to travel abroad since and have never regretted a single moment (or euro) spent.

New York Law School’s study abroad program was the perfect opportunity for me to travel, add some international coursework, and still manage to fit in an amazing internship for the remainder of the summer.

I flew to London about 10 days after my last 1L exam. The program was hosted by New York Law School’s Center for International Law and offered courses in international intellectual property, international business law, and international corporate and financial services law. Classes were held at the University of London’s College of Law, were taught by NYLS faculty, and ran for three weeks.

Each student enrolled in two courses, which met every weekday for just under two hours apiece. The nightly reading was actually fairly heavy, sometimes in excess of 50 pages per class. But we still managed to get in a few pints and a good deal of sightseeing. The program offered housing in an international-student dormitory in Bloomsbury, which was an easy five-minute walk from the college. We were also within walking distance of the British Museum and Euston Station, which provided local tube service as well as  rail service to the airports and destinations abroad.

In addition to classes, the program offered networking opportunities with international London firms and the chance to get a firsthand look at the British legal system. Activities were planned for a couple of evenings each week of the program, including a fabulous dinner one night at the Oxford and Cambridge Club.

We visited the offices of Linklaters and Taylor Wessing, both international Lon-don firms, where we were able to speak with solicitors regarding their work. We also visited the chambers of barristers, the English lawyers who specialize in litigation. They were all superb hosts and were very willing to share their experiences and advice.

After learning more about the British system of law in our visits to the barristers and firms, our schedule of historical walking tours culminated in a visit to parliament. We were able to view the debates on a bill to extend the powers of Scotland’s parliament, and were treated to some very British “Heah! Heahs!”

NYLS study abroad program was scheduled in a way that afforded students the opportunity to travel a bit as well. We were given a four-day weekend midway through, which almost everyone took advantage of. I went to Paris; other students went to the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy. I highly recommend either arriving at your study abroad destination early or staying past the end of classes — travel in Europe is very affordable once you’re there, either by discount airlines like easyJet or by Eurail. There are also scores of music and art festivals in Europe in the summer. Make the most of it!

I know some students are apprehensive about the cost involved. I took out loans to cover both my tuition and housing. If I had to do it over, I think I may have explored different housing options, such as Airbnb, because the dorms were fairly costly. But it definitely added to the student bonding experience to be living in a student dorm. Having a kitchen helped a lot as well; dining out in Lon-don can be fairly expensive.

Finally, I’d strongly recommend get-ting a credit card with no foreign trans-action fees. I used Chase Sapphire, but there are many to choose from. ATM fees add up very quickly, as do transaction fees on normal credit cards.

In all, I highly recommend studying abroad as part of your law school experience. It’s an excellent opportunity to travel as you learn. You’ll make lasting friendships, and you’ll have a wonderful conversation piece on your résumé when recruiting season begins.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.

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