When my family moved from Boston to Seoul, South Korea (my parents’ home country), I was 10 and knew only three Korean phrases: “How are you,” “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.”
My 1L year in law school was a lot like my first year in Korea. Like Korean, law was a language that I knew existed, but never thought I would have to speak. That is, until I had to speak it, immediately – as if my life (i.e., grades) depended on it.
Boston College Law School is sometimes referred to as the “Disneyland of law schools,” a kind nod to its supportive staff, upperclassmen and alumni. In reality, the 1L experience is closer to a journey through Wonderland – where you are chasing around an illusory white rabbit, not really knowing why, in a world filled with fascinating (and occasionally frightening) beings.
“There is a place, like no place on earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter.”
–Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll
A couple weeks into my 1L year, on my drive into school, I heard a report on public radio about a recent Supreme Judicial Court (the Massachusetts state supreme court) decision. The court had found that black men might have a reason, even if they were not guilty of a crime, to run from the police. Even as a greenhorn law student, I could tell that this sort of decision was radical. When I got to school, I printed the opinion, pushed Torts, Contracts, and CivPro to the side, and raced through it.
Citing to a study conducted by the Boston Police Department, which found that black men are more likely to be stopped and questioned by police officers, and repeatedly so, the court noted that a black male, “when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.” This was the outcome I hoped to (but did not often) see in judicial decisions. I looked at the opinion’s author, Justice Geraldine Hines. The first black woman to serve on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court, she had worked in civil rights and defense before joining the bench. It seemed like the coolest career possible, and controverted the typical image of a judge as a stuffy old white man. Maybe if I was lucky, I thought, one day I would get to meet her.
That day would come sooner than I thought.
Thank you to everyone who came out and thanked a mentor on our #BCLawImpact day!
As the second son of a poor rural family in South Korea, he moved to the city of Seoul alone to attend high school at the young age of 16. He continued his education at the nation’s most prestigious university and earned his PhD in the US (Boston) with full tuition and cost-of-living scholarships provided to him by the Korean government. While his accomplishments as a microbiologist themselves are admirable, it is his curiosity, patience and persistence that never fail to inspire me. “You will have good experiences and bad experiences, but none that are useless,” is one of the things that he said when I told him I was considering law school. Thanks, dad, and congratulations on your (upcoming) retirement!
My path to law school was, in some ways, untraditional. During college, I had seemingly clear plans and defined ideas about my future, yet none of them included a career as a lawyer. I applied to law school somewhat impulsively; I acted on a gut feeling. I remember making a frantic phone call to my mom the week of graduation to tell her that I no longer had any idea what my next steps would be. Naturally, this revelation came as somewhat of a shock to my parents, but they supported me without question as I worked to figure it all out.
So thanks, Mom and Dad. Without your understanding, law school, and most importantly BC Law, would not be a reality.
My mother has provided me with unwavering support that has proven to be vital for me to maximize my potential. Throughout my life, she constantly made sacrifices in order to create new opportunities for my personal, educational and emotional development. Whether it was listening to me vent about the stress-inducing issue of the week or pushing me to take that extra class to see if I like it, there is no doubt that my pedagogical progression would have fallen short of law school (and, likely much shorter) without this remarkable human in my life.
Not long after graduating from college my sister, Sarah, who recently entered her 30s, found herself at a convent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helping the nuns run an orphanage. She wasn’t taking vows, but she was beginning, unbeknownst to her, a life path focused on service to others. She has spent the bulk of the past five years working for the Human Resources department for Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontiers, MSF).
When I think of HR, I think of Toby from the show The Office. That was not my sister’s HR. She spent months working in Kurdistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Haiti again, to name a few. These are not vacation destinations, and that’s in part what drew her to the work: the ability to go into Afghanistan to work with and learn from a culture that most folks will never get to experience. Her HR department is likely unlike those that you have worked with. One of her first assignments was to maintain a list of every employee’s location for MSF’s entire 120-person mission in South Sudan, in case they needed to evacuate the country. Every day, she would email or call to each field hospital to see who was moving where, so that if disaster struck and the entire team needed to leave the country quickly, they could. She was barely twenty-four.
This week, the Impact blog is showcasing those people in our lives who have made an impact on us, who have helped us arrive at where we are today, and who keep us motivated towards our goals in the future. If you want to share a story about that person in your life, join us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and post your story using the hashtag #BCLawImpact. Students from the Law Students Association (LSA) and the blog will be in the Yellow Room on Thursday at lunch with a BC Law backdrop and a dry-erase board so you can take a picture with a message thanking someone who has made an impact on you and post it. We will post some of our favorite pictures and messages on the blog, and they will be collected in a Tagboard.
Above photo is the BC Veteran’s Memorial “dedicated to the memory of Boston College alumni who died in service to their country.”
Two days into a trip from Boston to the Panama Canal, my Coast Guard cutter tucked into a harbor off Long Island to anchor while we waited out a winter storm. Like most of the crew, I took advantage of what might be my last hours of American cell phone service for three months to text family members and obsessively refresh my email. I stood on the flight deck and felt a momentary reprieve from the wind and snow whipping my face as I read the subject line, “Congratulations from BC Law.”
My first reaction was an embarrassing combination of shock and fist pumps directed in no particular direction. My second reaction was a sobering, “Now what?” After ten years in the military I’d grown accustomed to having a checklist and pre-planned response card for everything I did, now I was temporarily severing my connection to the outside world without any idea how I’d prepare or pay for law school. I didn’t know what kind of help to ask for, much less who to ask for it.
After I wrote about the failures of the War on Drugs for BC Law Magazine last semester I waited anxiously for the backlash. I spent ten years in the U.S. Coast Guard before law school, six of them chasing international drug cartels at sea, and I had the opportunity to work with some of the most professional and dedicated military and law enforcement personnel in the world. I was terrified about how they’d respond when I called the drug war a “lost cause,” and it took less than a day for the responses to start flooding my inbox. The volume wasn’t surprising, but the content shocked me.
Walking the streets of Barcelona with my father used to involve a mild amount of embarrassment. In the city, where he was born and raised, and where most residents speak both Catalan and Spanish, there is a social convention: If you speak to someone you don’t know in Catalan, and they respond in Spanish, you should follow their cue and switch to Spanish because they do not speak Catalan. When someone responded to my father’s Catalan in Spanish, he persisted in Catalan. Sometimes they would call him out, explicitly telling him that they did not speak Catalan. Sometimes he would respond, “But we are in Catalunya.” I would stand by, hand blocking my face, hoping the interaction would end quickly. After seeing the national police bludgeon citizens throughout Catalonia with truncheons in a feeble attempt to block the October 1 independence referendum, I have a harder time seeing my father’s obstinacy as embarrassing.