Students experience law abroad
By Mario Cuadros, firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the summer, political science professors Kirk Randazzo and Charles Finnachiaro, along with 20 USC students, traveled to London and the Netherlands as part of the study abroad course, “The Foundation of Law and Government.” Randazzo shares some of the highlights of the course and his experiences.
How did the idea of offering this class come about?
We first started talking about the importance of comparing the legal and governing structures in the United States to other countries. In the midst of that conversation, it became very apparent that teaching a class overseas was vital to helping students better understand the U.S. system. Additionally, exposure to other institutions and structures would allow students to see first hand other alternatives.
Why London and the Netherlands?
London was an obvious location because many of the institutions in the U.S. are modeled on ones established in England. The Netherlands was chosen for two reasons: first, that the Dutch model of governance is significantly different from the U.S./U.K. model that it presents an interesting contrast; and second, that The Hague is home to several international tribunals such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Observing how the rule of law operates in the international system offers an additional model for students to compare to domestic institutions.
What did you expect students to get out of this trip?
Our expectation was that students would better understand how legal and governmental institutions operate through their interaction and experience with other countries. Additionally, we expected that students would benefit from exposure to other cultures more broadly.
How does the trip tie in to what students learn in the classroom?
The trip substantially enhanced information learned in the classroom. Prior to departure we had students read a variety of articles on the rule of law and governing from the British, Dutch and International perspectives. We then held class in Columbia to discuss these aspects and establish a baseline level of knowledge. As we explored England and the Netherlands, we met everyday to discuss how our experiences correlated with the information from the articles.
What feedback have you received from the students?
From the feedback we've received the students had an incredible experience. All of them commented on the importance of seeing different institutions firsthand. These include tours of the British parliament and Dutch parliament buildings; the Royal Courts of Justice in London (where we observed actual trials); and the trial of Radovan Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
What was the best experience during your trip?
I truly enjoyed the Karadzic trial because we sat approximately 20 feet from an individual accused of significant human rights violations (he was one of the leaders of the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Serbia during the 1990s). Additionally, I enjoyed observing the British House of Commons while members of parliament debated the merits behind a bill that would allow for same-sex marriage in England.
Are you planning on doing this trip every year?
Yes, we are planning to have this class and trip every year. We may change the locations in order to introduce students to other aspects of European law and governance.
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