As part of McGeorge School of Law’s Salzburg Graduate Study Abroad Program, I was lucky enough to participate in the European Law in Practice internship. I wanted to study abroad because of the enriching cultural experience that comes with living in a foreign country as well as learning about foreign legal and education systems. I think it is important to learn from an international perspective because it allows for a deeper understanding of certain customs and traditions. Gaining this experience is so helpful to life back home both personally and professionally because it allows me to be more compassionate and understanding, which will allow me to better contribute to the legal community.
Before spending three weeks taking law classes in Salzburg, I worked at the Università di Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy as a research assistant with Professor of Law Stefano Maffei. During the internship, I researched international legal cases that addressed instances where solitary confinement was challenged due to breaches of human rights. I learned how to use various databases more efficiently to gather the international resources that I needed. I also researched recent cases of extradition in preparation for the International Extradition and the European Arrest Warrant Advanced Seminar that Professor Maffei leads in Sarnico, Italy. The Extradition Seminar allowed me to learn from defense attorneys and prosecutors who work on extradition cases as well as what is required for extradition.
I also participated as a storyteller in the yearly English for Law & International Transactions (EFLIT) educational retreat in Sarnico that is designed to teach Italian law professionals the basics of the American legal system as well as legal English. As a storyteller, I prepared an explanation of a recent legal topic from the U.S. and presented it to small groups of Italian legal professionals to facilitate a discussion where the group would learn how the U.S. handled a certain issue, and I would learn how Italy may handle the legal issue. My topic covered cancel culture in the U.S., which was something the Italian professionals saw from a different perspective. These small groups allowed for great discussion and comparison of the legal systems and a greater understanding of cultural customs. I was able to improve my public speaking skills and gain the confidence to teach a group and facilitate an interactive discussion.
This experience really helped me improve my research and writing skills, so that I was able to ensure my research is thorough and focused on the topic of interest. I also learned a lot about myself by having the courage to be away from home for so long in a foreign country where I don’t speak the native language. I gained the ability to be patient with people, adapt, and creatively find solutions to things as simple as getting groceries or ordering coffee in another language. I am grateful for the incredible experience that McGeorge School of Law has offered me to improve my skills, and I am ready to continue into my second year more focused and excited for what the future holds.
By Yanin Ortega, a rising second-year student at McGeorge School of Law.