When I discovered that the Law School was beginning a new study-abroad program, the prospect of learning a foreign legal system excited me—and the prospect that it could take place in Paris probably excited me a bit more. For those of us who’ve spent the better part of two and a half years frequenting the halls of NYU Law, who could say no to spending their last semester of law school in a city many have described as the most extraordinary place in the world? While, for me, New York has always fit that bill, I still could not resist the allure of Paris. And so I applied, was accepted, and, one lengthy administrative process later, was departing for Paris a few hours before New Year’s Eve.
I arrived with several things on my mind. Of course I wanted to get off to a running start, touring as much of the city as I could before classes started. But given the whirlwind after exams in preparing to leave New York, I also had to prepare myself psychologically for classes that were beginning the first week of January, much earlier than they would have begun back home. Perhaps my biggest concern was the fact that I have never lived outside of New York City. To say the least, I worried about my adjustment to an entirely different culture than what I knew.
Once I arrived, however, the latter two worries all but disappeared from my mind. To put it simply, Paris is a breathtakingly beautiful city. I spent the better part of my first week touring the stunning streets and monuments of the city—including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Of course I could not resist a visit to the famous Louvre, or an excursion to the Orsay Museum. I even found time for a day trip to Disneyland Paris! When I wasn’t incessantly running around, I was enjoying the many restaurants and cafés Paris offers. The city has even more places to eat than you can imagine. For a foodie like me, I could not ask for more. You would be wrong to assume, given the number of restaurants, that somehow quality was sacrificed for quantity. Whether it is dinner at an upscale French restaurant or a quick trip to the closest café, there has been no shortage of fantastic French food.
Despite my awe, a bit of homesickness began to kick in after the first couple of weeks. I soon realized that, though there remained a ton of Paris to explore—and our semester-long visit here surely will provide plenty of opportunity to do so—the only way I could begin to feel more at home here was to “act” like I lived here, rather than like a tourist. So I turned my full focus to our courses here, as they had proven to be a bit more rigorous than any of us had anticipated.
The NYU Law program is being offered in conjunction with the Sciences Po Law School. With the exception of one mandatory clinic, we had an array of courses to choose from when registering. They were all focused in some respect on European or international law, and many contained a comparative aspect regarding the United States legal system. To give you an idea of some of these courses, I am registered for our mandatory European Regulatory Policy Clinic, International Commercial Arbitration, European Business Deals, International Economic Negotiations, and Comparative Employment and Discrimination Law.
The mandatory clinic is where I believe the majority of us have spent most of our time and efforts. In addition to the seminar portion of our clinic, where we learn about the various EU executive, legislative, and judicial bodies, the fieldwork portion has provided us the opportunity to work on various projects in conjunction with students from HEC Paris. As part of the clinic, we were also able to travel to Brussels, the capital of the European Union (think Washington, DC–just don’t say it aloud, as that comparison is apparently taboo here). While Brussels did not match the beauty that is Paris, it was still a great city. Politics, chocolate, and beer—what more could a law student ask for?
While Paris has for the most part been the rosy picture I have painted, it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. One thing that is important to understand is that in addition to learning an entirely new legal system, we take courses with professors who have taught against an entirely different cultural backdrop. Adjusting to this—along with a few other hiccups—proved to be frustrating for some. But these minor issues were also to be expected, given that we are the first class taking part in this study-abroad experience. There are 11 of us here, many of whom I did not know before arriving, and all of whom have turned out to be great friends and, often, support systems.
A month in, I could easily assess my overall experience participating in the program as great. While my French isn’t anywhere near survival level just yet, I do feel more at home. Paris and its people have been fantastic. There has been no shortage of interesting experiences here, and I am very much looking forward to the remaining months we have!