Icelandic LL.M. student influenced by multicultural upbringing

Gunnlaugur Geirsson’s first month as an LL.M. student at the University of Miami School of Law was off to a warm start.

He has spent much of his life in Iceland, where winters are long and cold, so the tropical climate and international vibe in Miami was a bonus, Geirsson said.

But, then Hurricane Irma made its way toward Florida. Schools and businesses closed, residents boarded up homes, and families hit the road.

“I am used to extreme weather conditions in Iceland, but I have never had to evacuate before!” said Geirsson, who drove to Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife.

The law school was closed for about two weeks. (The couple decided to travel further north for a vacation in New York.)

But now it’s back to work for Geirsson and his fellow students in the University of Miami School of Law’s LL.M. in U.S. & Transnational Law program.

Geirsson comes to Miami with a multicultural and multilingual background. He was born in Sweden to Icelandic parents and raised for five years in Quinhamel, a small rural village in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. He lived in Sweden again, and then at the age of 14, moved to Iceland. He speaks Icelandic, Swedish, English, Portuguese and Creole.

“I believe this upbringing and experience of diverse cultures influenced me to focus my law studies on public international law and the rapidly developing issue of globalization,” Geirsson said.

He is currently a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Iceland, but he hopes to work as a lawyer, perhaps within the Icelandic public sector or internationally active non-governmental organizations. To do so, he wanted advanced, specialized legal training in another country to prepare to work in a multinational legal environment. That led him to the United States.

Here though, the biggest challenge was going to be tuition. The Scandinavian model of education is that everything is more or less free of charge, he said. But, then he was presented with the Cobb Family Fellowship, which provides a living stipend and scholarship to a graduate of the University of Iceland. The decision to attend University of Miami was easy after that.

“The program is flexible, attracts students from diverse legal cultures and offers diverse courses,” Geirsson said. “Pursuing this additional Master's degree at the University of Miami School of Law will thus provide me with the opportunity to learn about the US legal system, experience how US lawyers are trained and explore the field of international law in a challenging and multinational academic environment.”

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