London study abroad programs reschedule for Olympics

Law school students have a prime opportunity to take advantage of the Olympic games land in London next summer: Enrolling in a London study abroad program grants them a ticket to a buzzing city celebrating a mega event.

But with millions expected to descend on the city for the first time London has hosted the Olympics since 1948, competition for rooms is tight, prices are sky high and some summer programs that intersect with the July 27 to Aug. 12 games are forced to tweak arrangements — or cancel their 2012 trip altogether.

That's the case with Georgetown Law, which blames logistical issues for scratching its near five-week summer program in London next summer, which typically costs students $4,500 to take up to six credits.

“The overall increase in costs and scarcity of affordable housing in London during the Olympic period were the major factors that influenced the decision not to offer the program in 2012,” said Cara Morris, director of transnational programs at Georgetown Law, adding that the program will reappear in 2013.

About twenty other U.S. law schools have programs in London, making it the most popular city in the world to study law abroad. That's no surprise: London is a top place to see international law and financial law in action, between the presence of Parliament and Lloyd's of London, the world's leading insurance market. Its position as the publishing and media capital of Europe also makes it a great place to study comparative and international aspects of intellectual property law.

Some schools, realizing just how special an opportunity it is for its students to study abroad in a city while it's playing host to the Olympics, pulled out all the stops in order to make it happen.

Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles started fighting the logistical nightmare surrounding the  Olympics early, kicking off the planning process back in summer 2009.

“We expect this summer to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students,” said Michael Scott, professor and director of the London summer program in international information technology. “We have done several things that will (we hope) ensure that this year's program will not be negatively impacted by the Olympics.”

For instance, U.S. professors booked their flats ahead of time and tours were finalized earlier than usual.

The school booked the dorm rooms and classrooms far in advance and altered the program schedule so that it will end two weeks sooner than before, putting its last day three weeks before the beginning of the Olympics. Scott hopes students will take advantage of the smorgasbord of pre-Olympics events, like concerts, art exhibits and athletic competitions.

Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla. is taking its London study abroad experience a step further next year, buying its students tickets for basketball, soccer and volleyball Olympic events, said John Cooper, associate dean for international programs.

Its semester fall program with 15 to 20 students will start a couple of days later than originally scheduled, on Aug. 14, to give students the chance attend the games before diving into academics.

Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., also realizing the importance of making the program work, made a last-minute decision in October to proceed, though all of the logistical arrangements the school had in place for the annual program had to be altered.

Its six-credit program in June and July, which exposes students to international commercial arbitration, will overlap the Olympic games by a couple of days.

“We usually have our publicity ready to go out to students at this point in the academic year,” said Kitty Atkins, an associate director at Hamline. “We just decided on [Oct. 18] that the program will be a go.”

The University of San Diego School of Law worked around the Olympics' schedule to make its program happen, switching around the dates and shortening the amount of credits for its summer study abroad program in London next summer, which focuses on international business.

Its program usually runs for five weeks from July 2 to Aug. 4, offering six credits. Due to the Olympics, the program will now run from June 25 to July 20 and will be limited to four semester credits.

“We were advised that housing would be at a premium from July 21, but every indication was that it would not be a problem before then,” said Herbert Lazerow, professor of Law and Director, Institute on Int'l & Comparative Law at the University of San Diego.

With 11,000 athletes expected to swarm the city, not to mention their coaches, trainers and support personnel, along with countless spectators and tourists, transportation options will likely be jammed and tourist destinations like Parliament or London theaters will be less accessible and more expensive.

Despite those roadblocks, some schools are going ahead and letting their programs take place as planned during the height of the 17-day games.

Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La. secured 50 rooms for its six-week program in London next summer from June 25 to Aug. 3, which will mark its eighth year in the city.

“The good news is we have some of the very few rooms in London available at a reasonable price,” said Maurice Franks, professor of law, who attributes the deal to Southern University's new partnership with the University College London. “They look at us being in a long-term relationship. We are going to be there for the indefinite future.”

Franks encourages students to buy event tickets for the Olympics now, some of which cost as little as 20 pounds, or about $30.

Many of those schools will luck out next year and their programs will unaffected by the Olympics because of timing. Winston-Salem, N.C.'s Wake Forest University School of Law, for instance, spoors its annual London program from May 28 to June 21, ending more than a month before the Olympics Opening Ceremony. The same story is true at New York Law School's program in London, which runs from May 22 to June 13, and the program through Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, R.I. , which ends June 17.

Programs sponsored by Valparaiso University Law in Indiana, William Mitchell School of Law in Minnesota, American University Washington College of Law in D.C. and University of Miami School of Law in Florida also remain unchanged, ending before the Olympics start.

New York's Pace University School of Law offers a semester abroad program in London from Jan. 8 to May 8, which will also be unaffected.

Two schools are canceling their summer 2012 programs in London for reasons other than the Olympics.

Loyola Law School in Los Angeles is taking a hiatus in 2012 from its intellectual property study abroad program in London, which typically takes place from May 22 to June 11, due to faculty schedules, according to a spokeswoman for the school. 

Tulane University in New Orleans is not sponsoring its summer abroad program in London, but “that decision had nothing to do with the Olympics,” said Michael Strecker, spokesman. Instead, the decision to cancel the program had to do with “reallocating faculty resources,” he said.