Short and happy study abroad options

Winter study abroad programs come with a number of benefits.

For one, they’re normally cheaper than summer programs, so the sticker shock isn’t as shocking. 

They’re also shorter, meaning you won’t have time to get homesick. (And you can pack light, too.)

They allow you to have your summers free, which many students use to gain legal work experience.

Plus, you still get that all-important worldly experience, which will open your eyes to a new culture, a new legal system . . . and new foods!

“Many of our students have never been overseas,” said Stella Elias, a professor at The University of Iowa College of Law, who oversees its winter London Law Program. “It’s a very rewarding experience.”

This year’s program runs from Dec. 28 through Jan. 10 and packs in a host of activities, including visits to Parliament, the U.K. Supreme Court and University of Oxford. Two courses are offered for two credits each:  British Legal System and Comparative Corporate Governance.

Elias, who teaches the British Legal System course, is from England and graduated from Oxford. Talk about an experienced tour guide . . . 

The two-week program replaces a previous, semester-long program that was also based in the U.K. The length of the program was said to be the culprit. In its last year, just six students participated.

Students felt it was in their better interest to stay in the U.S. and get work experience, Elias said. 

“They didn’t want to be away that long,” she said.

The new program, which is open to all second- and third-year law students in the nation, kicked off in 2016 and attracted 28 students. This year, the number will be 60.

“It’s been really terrific,” Elias said, of the growing interest. “It’s a good price point.”

The cost is $3,200.

Plus, participants get to see the UK legal system up close and personally. “The students really get to see what it’s like to be a young lawyer in England,” Elias said. “I love teaching this program.”

Other schools offer short, intensive study abroad programs as well. They’ve also seen students turn to these options as alternatives to summer ones. 

University of Baltimore School of Law, along with Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., offers a winter program in Curacao in the Caribbean. This year it runs from Dec. 18 to Jan. 6.

The program, which is nearing its 20th year, focuses on international and comparative law. The island is part of the Dutch Caribbean and governed by Dutch law, which makes the learning experience an unusual one for students, said Lisa Sparks, a practitioner in residence at University of Baltimore who is managing this year’s program. 

It is seeing an uptick in interest and is expected to attract 35 students this year. It was started by a University of Baltimore professor who built a working relationship with a Dutch professor, she said.

“It’s grown. It’s definitely taken on a life of its own,” Sparks said. 

Costing about $6,000, including tuition for the four credits students earn, it has proved to be an exciting offering, Sparks said. Some students bring family and treat it as a vacation when not in class. 

Participants not only get the chance to explore the island and it history but also form bonds with fellow students that can be long-lasting, she said. 

Another advantage of these shorter programs is that part-time students can participate. Because it’s during a holiday period, some students who work full time are able to muster the time off, Sparks said. 

“It’s a great way to capture that population that’s usually shut out of these kinds of offerings,” she said. 

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