Study abroad and exchange programs offer unique opportunity

Published: October 15th, 2012

Category: News

Costa Rica

By Francie Weinberg
Student writer

The University of Florida Levin College of Law study abroad and exchange programs allow students to venture to the corners of the earth for beautiful views, delicious food and an international perspective on the law.

Students have the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica, South Africa or France. The only prerequisites are that students have completed one year of law school and are in good standing with the college. Programs are six weeks long and allow students to earn up to six credits.

Costa Rica, focusing mainly on environmental and international law, is situated in San Jose. It gives students the opportunity to explore the rainforests and rolling rivers while learning in a cross-cultural environment. The France program begins in Paris and then moves to Montpellier for the next four weeks. The program emphasizes business law and allows students to travel throughout Europe if they so desire. The South Africa program, offered again after a two-year hiatus, is set at the University of Cape Town, thought to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, offers a community service aspect in addition to regular courses.

“There are also native students who participate in all three of the programs,” said Michelle Ocepek, UF Law director of student programs. “Not every program offers that. Sometimes it’s just a group of Americans that show up to study, but in ours we try and do field trips and include local students so we can get more of the culture.”

Many students classify their study abroad trips as one of their best and most memorable college experiences. It allows them an opportunity to broaden their circle of friends, see the world and get to know the professors on a level they would not achieve in a classroom setting.

“The trip is really an opportunity to immerse yourself in French culture, rather than just experience France as a tourist,” said Adam Nicoll, a second-year law student. “Every morning I woke up and had breakfast before class at a little cafe around the corner from the university.  After a week of butchering the French pronunciation of ‘croissant’ and ‘cafe crème’ I established myself as a regular there and didn’t even need to order anymore; the couple that owned the cafe would just bring it over upon seeing me sit down. I didn’t get to just see the sights; I got to really know the culture.”

The faculty rotates on a year-to-year basis in order to keep the programs as up-to-date and modern as possible.

“I truly believe the program was made by the presence of our UF faculty members,” said Olivia Liggio, a second-year law student. “They really encouraged us to explore and experience our surroundings by planning excursions and they even helped us to figure out how to see the Tour de France, which was passing through a town nearby.”

Students must apply for the Costa Rica program with a letter of interest and a resume but France and South Africa are on a first-come, first-served basis. The second interest meeting will be in January. Additionally, if students wish to earn up to the full eight credits allowed during the summer, they may couple the study abroad trip with a class, an internship or an externship upon their return home.

The college also offers nine exchange programs around the world: Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel; Tel Aviv University, Israel; Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany; Leiden University, The Netherlands; Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; Pontificia Universidade Catolica-Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; University of Cape Town, South Africa; University of Montpellier, France; and University of Warsaw, Poland.

These programs are a semester long and students go without the accompaniment of a faculty member. All of the exchanges are ABA-approved and students can earn up to one-third of their credits overseas. It is an opportunity to be immersed in the culture as well as improve language skills, as classes are often mostly native students rather than others participating in exchange programs. If students do not see a country or program they would like to participate in, they are allowed to participate in other ABA-schools’ programs.

The exchange programs offer new and different coursework for students, as well as a chance to make international connections and to learn a variety of perspectives about the law. There is also financial aid available.

“If students have a goal of studying abroad during their law career, it is best that they start early,” Ocepek said. “That way they can plan and they can be intentional about fitting it in to their legal career. I think it’s really easy to think that three years is a long time but it goes really quickly.”

For more information, visit http://www.law.ufl.edu/academics/academic-programs/study-abroad or contact Michelle Ocepek at 352-273-0620 or ocepek@law.ufl.edu.