Exploring Law in an International Context

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Cindy Luo, COL ’20

While I was interning abroad at the University of Minho Law School in Braga, Portugal, most of my weeks consisted of assisting the Assistant Dean in editing and compiling articles and master’s theses for an electronic law journal as well as going over research proposals and using databases to find specific sources. This was my first introduction to this type of work, and although I have no legal background, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning as I go and applying my new knowledge with each task. For me, one of the highlights of this internship experience actually happened in a classroom because I had the unique opportunity to take a LL.M. class in the European and Transglobal Business Law Department titled: “Legal Aspects of Investment in China”.

This class was taught by a Chinese professor who told us that it was her first time teaching a class in English. Initially, I was very intimidated to take a class with graduate students taught by a Chinese professor, but my fears and apprehension was soon overtaken by sheer curiosity and determination to engage with new people, new ideas, and new ways of learning. Professor Yi really emphasized comparative legal systems and frameworks; she encouraged us to engage in open dialogue and discussion about how the law works in our respective home countries whether it be Portugal or China or Brazil or the United States, etc.

In learning about the legal aspects of investment in China, I got my first taste of business law, international taxation law, contract law, and intellectual property law, all explained through a global context. While these fields of law never explicitly appealed to me as much as human rights law, immigration law, or criminal law, I was able to see how all these different fields are interconnected and relate in one way or another to social change and progress. Taking this course in conjunction with this internship allowed me to appreciate the universality of the rule of law and what it essentially means for people living in different parts of the world. It allowed me to think about the gap between what is written and what is actually practiced.  

Throughout this course and this internship, I also thought a lot about what I potentially want to do after graduation, and particularly if law school is the right choice for me. Our final assignment for the class was to present and analyze a case study, gathering the basic facts of the case, the disputes, the legal issues, the judgement and reasoning. The hardest part of the assignment was making sense of the legal procedures in the case and interpreting the outcome through what I perceived to be very convoluted legal writing. But by the end of the class, however, I was proud of being able to contextualize what I learned about the Chinese legal system and framework of laws in relation to investment. More so than understanding the content, I was proud of being able to decode the complex, technical legal language. Likewise, the topics and the terminology of the articles and theses that I was editing became much more comprehensible after the class. All in all, critical thinking, logical analysis, and organized legal writing are some of the most important skills to develop as a potential law student; having this opportunity here in Portugal has been integral in helping me do that. As I come back to Penn and enter my junior year, I hope to be able to explore law on a deeper level and to gain more exposure to different fields of law. (I will be taking a Law & Social Change class as well as acting as the ambassador for the Law & Policy Sociology Interest Group). I am still finding my way and figuring things out, but this experience showed me that I have what it takes to succeed in law school if or when I choose to go. Being abroad here in Portugal and interning at the University of Minho Law School has taught me how to practice flexibility and patience–with myself, with others, and with the world. You can choose to learn at your own pace, and there’s certainly a difference between taking your time and wasting your time. I learned to trust my instincts and to be more self-confident in going after what I want. I understand that you do not have to be the smartest person in the room to contribute something valuable. You do not have to be the most outspoken to have your voice heard. And you do not have to have a law degree to help someone. You just have to be willing and open-minded and embrace the challenges, uncertainty, and failures that come along with the process. Understand

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