Op-Ed: Looking Back on an International Education

by Victoria Rowley

As the academic year draws to a close, many of UConn Law’s international students are preparing to return to their home countries having successfully completed a study abroad program. In anticipation of the end of the semester, I spoke to a number of international students who reflected on the many positive and valuable experiences they have had over the past ten months.

A fundamental part of studying abroad is being exposed to a new academic curriculum and learning environment. For some international students, the American legal system has many similarities to the legal system in their home country, but for others the American common law is drastically different from the system they are accustomed to. Admittedly this can be one of the main challenges facing international students but the benefits of studying in a country with another legal system cannot be stressed enough.

Rojia Afshar, an LLM student from Iran who is graduating this May, commented that “shifting from a civil law system to a common law system was as challenging as moving from east to west! However, I’m very happy and proud to have taken the challenge. It is in experiencing different conditions, systems and lifestyles that one grows”.

Regardless of whether a student is from a civil or common law background, the unique style of teaching in American Law Schools is often a brand new experience for international students. I never knew what it meant to be “on call” before taking my seat in my first ever UConn Law School class and although traumatic at times, I appreciate the benefits the teaching system has given me – confidence to present my own opinions and a marked improvement in my ability to think on my feet and express myself in a coherent manner.

Mercè Maresma, on exchange from Barcelona, expresses a similar view on UConn Law’s teaching style, although “very different from that at my home university, the teaching style is highly beneficial for improving skills that will be useful for my future career as a lawyer”.

As much as the focus is on academic learning, studying abroad cannot be underestimated for presenting international students with a range of extracurricular opportunities. International students at UConn Law are encouraged from the outset to get involved in events hosted both within the law school and outside of it.

Tori Cure, an exchange student from the UK, took part in UConn Law’s Community Day during orientation and also attended the International Law Weekend at Fordham University in New York.

Studying abroad is a unique opportunity and it is difficult to sum up an entire year’s worth of experiences in one article. However, as a famous author once said, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too”. This certainly holds true for my year abroad experience and I am confident to say that it holds true for all those international students completing their study abroad programs at UConn Law. Yet as one group of international students depart, another arrives and I pass the baton to a new group of exchange and LLMs who I hope enjoy their year abroad experience as much as I did.