Studying Law as an International Student

One of the most interesting parts of my time at law school so far has been the opportunity to meet students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some have come straight from completing their undergraduate degree while others have spent a significant amount of time in the workplace before starting at BC Law. From class discussions, it’s clear to me that everyone brings these experiences with them to law school and it’s fascinating to see the way in which people’s different perspectives inform how they intend to practise law. 

As someone who isn’t from the U.S. originally, I think a lot about the ways in which my experience of growing up under a different legal system influences how I think about the law and the United States judicial system. For one thing, my ability to follow along in my constitutional law class this semester has definitely been hampered by my not knowing some of the foundational knowledge that students in the U.S. pick up either through osmosis or high school civics. 

For this week’s blog post, I sat down with three international students at BC to find out a bit more about their own experiences of studying as international students and what led to them studying at a U.S. law school.

Nicolò Zamboni (1L) from Bologna, Italy

-How did you end up studying law at BC?

I have always been really interested in music and did my associate degree in London at the Institute of Contemporary Music and Performance. I then moved to Boston, where I have been for the last four years, to study Music Business/Management at Berklee College of Music. It was a relatively recent decision to study law. While at Berklee I became really interested in the legal side of the music business and I now would really like to work as an entertainment lawyer:  whether that’s working in artist representation, contacts, or assisting with the legal sides of organizing tours etc. 

-What perspective do you think you bring as an international student to BC?

I already knew quite a lot about U.S. culture and society before coming to BC. Italian schools are very good and I grew up learning a lot about American history. As a result, I’ve not found studying constitutional law as difficult as perhaps other international students might, and it’s been really fascinating to study these foundational elements of jurisprudence. Italian schools also really train their students to be organized and hard-working and I think I bring this aspect with me to my studies here. I have really enjoyed getting to know different students at BC. Law students are a very different type of student to those I’ve previously encountered while studying music and I really appreciate the discipline that students bring to their studies here.

Roy Parrish Rippe (LLM) from Bogota, Colombia

-In what ways do you think your experience as a student of the law in the U.S. is different from other students who have grown up here because you are an international student?

Studying law requires a deep understanding of the common ideas upon which a society is built. Some of these ideas are already embedded in the minds of students that have grown up here. I am experiencing for the first time many of these notions, resulting in a greater learning experience not limited to the law but also of the American culture. 

I do believe that coming from a place with a different legal system has given me unique insights, which improves the learning experience for everybody as a result of a more diverse and globally-oriented discussion. Also, my perspective on topics like violence and internal conflict come from direct exposure to these issues in my home country. 

-What has been your favorite part of studying at BC/in the U.S. so far?  

The vigorous interaction between students and professors has been a completely new and exciting experience for me. This has pushed me to improve myself in many aspects that are valued in the U.S. and more specifically at BC. 

My favorite class at BC has been Antitrust Law, mainly because it comprises three incredibly interesting elements: political history, economic analysis, and regulation of new technological developments.

Amin Al Ghamdi (1L) from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

-Why did you decide to study law in the U.S.?

I have always been interested in law but never really considered studying it until recently. I originally went to college to become a mechanical engineer and studied at UNC Charlotte before coming to BC. In my last year in college I got to learn a bit more about patent law and thought it sounded really interesting, so when the company where I worked showed interest in recruiting lawyers with a strong background in engineering, I took the opportunity to pursue my JD degree to work for them as a patent lawyer. At the same time, Saudi is really beginning to open up to the world at the moment and I knew that they would need lots of lawyers to help with this process. 

-What has been your favorite class at BC so far and why?

I really enjoyed Property last semester. I have always been interested in real estate and a lot of property law in the U.S. is very similar to back home. I am also actually building a home back in Saudi so I found the class particularly helpful and have already been able to put some of what I learned into use.

-In what ways do you think your experience as a student of the law in the U.S. is different from other students who have grown up here?

I think I have a different perspective of the law and U.S. judicial system than students who have grown up here. My view of the U.S. was primarily formed from the outside and while living under a different legal system, so I have a different perspective on some of the questions we examine in class. Not growing up in the U.S. also means that you have a view of the country as a whole rather than a perspective that was formed while living in one particular area or region. I’ve found that students at BC Law are particularly open to discussion and different points of view. I feel a lot more able to be open about myself, my background and culture.

It’s also been really interesting learning about constitutional law with American students this semester. People who have grown up in the U.S. have grown up with the Constitution their entire life and relate to it in a very different way as a result. While I am still learning what the U.S. Constitution means to Americans, students from the U.S. have a much stronger intuitive sense of how it applies in different circumstances and the way its protections can be used.


Jonathan Bertulis-Fernandes is a first-year student at BC Law. Contact him at bertulij@bc.edu.

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