Students gain cultural, law experience in study abroad programs

Published: October 10th, 2011

Category: News, Students

As one of the University of Florida law students selected to travel to both Paris and Montpellier, France, for a five-week summer study abroad program, Alexis Leventhal seemed to have everything she could ask for.

“It was putting everything under the sun to do in one summer,” she said. “I wanted to make the most of my summer. I wanted to take classes, I wanted to travel and I wanted to work. The (summer in France) program allowed me to do all three of these things.”

And as the applications for UF Law’s three summer study abroad programs open this month, Leventhal stressed how important it is for law students to seek an international perspective.

“As much as we like each other, it’s nice to have a different perspective and act as an ambassador of sorts,” she said.

While students take classes at French universities in the France program, Leventhal said Gators who fear speaking French needn’t worry. Classes, which are attended by a mixture of American and French students and taught by both French and American professors, are taught in English.

“You definitely don’t need to speak French. Thank goodness for that because my French is awful,” Leventhal said. “But it’s always nice to understand what people are saying around you.”

UF Law’s Associate Dean for International Affairs Stuart Cohn, who will also teach a class this summer in France as part of the 2012 program, elaborated on Leventhal’s mention of foreign classes, saying learning with foreign students is one the program’s best assets.

“Our students interact with foreign students. Our students get a sense of practicing law in a foreign country…and they do this all in a marvelously beautiful place,” Cohn said. “It’s an extremely enriching experience academically, culturally and personally.”

UF also offers the only American Bar Association-approved American summer program with the University of Cape Town in South Africa as well as a summer program in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Aside from the academics Leventhal described as “just as rigorous” and meaningful as classes as UF Law, students who are selected for UF’s three study abroad programs have a privilege not many other law students have. They get foreign culture, foreign food and they get world-class art.

It’s not every day you can see the Mona Lisa after classes. “There is really a strong sense of French pride and French culture that really just came about from walking around,” Leventhal said. “And (Montpellier) is still maintained in medieval style, but it’s presented in the 21st century.”

And if the medieval architecture of a 1,000-year-old city isn’t enough, Leventhal is quick to note another difference between taking classes in north central Florida and taking classes in the south of France.

“The schedule is definitely very student-friendly, travel-wise,” she said. “You can go to Barcelona for the weekend; you can go to Italy for the weekend.”

In the end, Leventhal’s trip across the Atlantic was more than taking six credits toward her law degree. It was a life-changing experience she’s eager to share with everyone. And when fellow students learn about insurance law on Wednesday, run with the bulls in Pamplona on Saturday and flit off to Amsterdam another weekend, it’s not hard to understand why Leventhal’s so eager to share those experiences.

“It’s not just five weeks in a beautiful country,” she said. “It’s so much more.”

Cohn said students who would like more information on any of UF Law’s three summer study abroad programs should email Michelle Ocepek, student programs director, at or visit the summer programs’ website at

Applications for UF’s programs in Cape Town, France and San Jose are due March 23.