Should I Study Abroad In Law School? - JD Advising, LLC.
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Should I Study Abroad In Law School?

Should I Study Abroad In Law School?: Law school is a unique graduate student experience. It differs from other traditional graduate programs. The law is evolving and your courses and experiences should evolve too. Like a fingerprint, each law student experience is vastly different. Once a student fulfills required courses, law students are given the freedom to personalize and tailor the experience to fit their interests and career goals. Law school is customizable and students should take full advantage of this! This can be done by hand selecting courses that reflect your interests and goals, studying abroad, and securing interesting and challenging internships.

Should I Study Abroad In Law School?

After finishing my first year, my roommate Liz asked me to join her on her study abroad program to China.  I had not studied abroad during my undergraduate years and hadn’t considered it in law school. “Should I study abroad in law school?” I weighted the pros and cons. The undergraduate stigma of study abroad was one I had no academic interest in. It was generally considered an expensive and drawn out adventurous vacation posing as “minimum work” courses. I assumed this façade would be similar in law school. However, I was happy to discover I was very wrong.

I looked into the China program: a six-week-long international IP/business focused program consisting of four classes and six credits. After reviewing the syllabi of the courses, I found them intriguing. They mimicked the IP and corporate business legal route I sought to follow. I asked Liz when the trip was schedule to leave, and she excitedly replied “In five days!” Panic ensued. Quickly, I became closely acquainted with the employees of the Chinese consulate in Chicago.  A special thank you to one gentleman who drove into the city after-hours to print my Chinese visa one day prior to my trip!

Studying abroad in law school is an extraordinary and a career elevating experience if done properly. How does one study abroad properly you ask? Here are my tips:

1. Do your homework!

Many law schools have study abroad programs. Unbeknownst to many students, some schools allow you to participate in other schools’ programs if they better suit your focus. If you do decide on another program, make sure the credits will transfer. Also, do your real course homework consistently throughout the program. These grades can bump up your GPA!

2. Don’t base your choice entirely on location.

Prior to my experience, I had never considered traveling so far away to study. Although Paris or Rome would have been lovely, the China program had much more relevant coursework to supplement my other courses. I also knew it would be taken more seriously on a resume than a “vacation” destination. Additionally, I rationalized that there may not be another opportunity to explore Eastern Asia.

3. Plan ahead so you can travel more economically.

Booking a last-minute trip is only recommended if the experience is amazing! Financially, I found that non-direct flights and flexible travel dates to be the most reasonable.

4. Keep a journal of your daily experiences.

Studying abroad is once-in-a-lifetime, and if you want to be able to intelligently discuss your experience (with a future employer!) it’s best to take a few minutes to jot down your experiences each day. This gives you an easy guide to thumb through to help you remember names of lecturers, places you visited, etc. This also comes in handy with final exams, as they often have you draw upon your experience in detail.

 5. Schedule your time.

Studying abroad is just as much about a personal adventure as it is an intellectual journey. Make a list of things you want to do while you’re there to help budget your time. Make sure, however, you get your studying under your belt first.

6. Be prepared.

You need to be flexible and open when studying abroad. Set aside all your expectations or mental limitations to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Packing light and bringing notebooks, highlighters, a laptop and proper charge converters are all important!

“It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings!” Studying abroad in law school is not an isolated experience, it’s a foundation to build upon. Let me explain. As a lawyer on the other side, I always expected my IP internship at a fashion house to be the star of my resume when searching for jobs. However, time and time again interviewers are fascinated with my study abroad and follow up with many questions. To this day, I still use my journal as a quick reference to keep me prepared for detailed questions! You ask: “Should I study abroad in law school?”  If study abroad makes sense for you, meaning:

  1. It is financially feasible;
  2. Carefully researched;
  3. Supplements and enhances your career path and other courses;

Then do it!

Once you are back in the States, continue to use your study abroad experience as a springboard! For example, my experience validated my interest in IP. I used that as a catalyst to sign up for courses I may not have enrolled in otherwise. Then, I followed up those courses the next summer with an IP internship. I still use my experience in cover letters when describing what led me to my passion for IP! Make your study abroad worth it! Allow it to be a domino effect in your career and further strengthen and enhance your path. Safe travels!

Adrianna, a recent law school graduate, wrote this post about her study abroad experience. If you have any questions, please feel free to post in the comments below or email us at info@jdadvising.com.