Liam Evans is currently in Germany, he writes about what to expect whilst studying law on an Erasmus Scheme
Change is always something to be anxious about. Will it be for the better, or is it something that you’ll come to regret? It certainly felt that way when the time came for me to leave the safe and comfortable environment that I’d enjoyed at Bangor University for the past two years. It was time to begin a new adventure on my career path.
The law department at Bangor University has excellent links with Johannes Gutenberg Universität in Mainz, Germany, and as the only student of my current year studying LLB Law with German, my place at the university was guaranteed. The relevant paperwork went through without encountering too many problems or red tape and before I knew it, October had arrived and new experiences beckoned.
Studying Law on an Erasmus Scheme – Landing In Germany
I cannot begin to describe the wide range of emotions that you feel before departing; there are just too many in such a short space of time (and it is a short space of time, May to October). From personal experience I felt anxious, apprehensive and excited, to name but a few. As for my expectations, although unsure of what lay ahead, this would be a whole new experience. So in preparation, I researched online: the official website was perused extensively, pictures were viewed and questions were asked of the Erasmus co-ordinator for Mainz. After doing all of this, I felt less concerned and more prepared for the challenges that I would face.
The first few days in Germany were spent participating in an Infodays programme organised by the Erasmus team at the university. This included a tour of campus, assistance setting up email accounts and other IT titbits, as well as finalising paperwork that could only be completed upon arrival in Mainz. The programme was the ideal solution to begin to alleviate some of my nervousness. It provided a great opportunity to meet other Erasmus students who were in the same position; make some great international friends, and really felt like the university provided a first-rate service to its foreign students. Without this excellent service, it would be easy to imagine that there would have been many more perplexed faces! After this introduction, it was time to choose the modules that I wished to study.
As a Joint Honours student, I don’t have this choice at Bangor. I simply do the core modules from both Law and German that make up my course. So this was something new for me and something that I put a lot of thought into. Some of the modules I felt on a personal level were not tailored for my individual needs, whilst others didn’t particularly appeal. Bangor requires a minimum of 25 ECTS credits per semester, so there was also that to take into consideration. After much deliberation, and conversations with the Head of Law, I decided to choose Criminal Law, Legal Philosophy and History of Roman Law, whilst also studying German as a Foreign Language module. Now I know what you’re thinking, history of Roman Law…? And yes, it is a little out there, but it’s a module that I don’t regret choosing in the slightest. In fact, it’s something that has interested me so much that I have chosen to write my dissertation about it!
The same process applied for the second semester of my study in Germany. Again I was required to choose modules that amounted to 25 ECTS credits, and again it was a decision I did not consider lightly. For this particular period I studied Essentials of German and European Legal History, European Law, Constitutional History of Modern Times and German as a Foreign Language.
Studying Law on an Erasmus Scheme – Learning in a Different Language
Now as far as predicting what’s going to happen once you get inside that lecture theatre, believe me when I tell you, it’s not quite the same. Law lectures are very popular in Germany, and often, unless you got there early, there would be nowhere to sit, apart from on the stairs. The teaching is very much the same; there were numerous Power Point presentations (all of which were downloadable), the lecturer stood at the front and delivered his/her lecture and asked questions to which the members of the class responded at will. All of this sounds very familiar doesn’t it? Whilst the style of teaching may be the same, there is one thing to remember, the lectures are in German. Nothing you have previously studied at A-Level or degree level can prepare you for understanding everything that goes on in a German lecture theatre. Don’t get me wrong it certainly helps, but it’s still a struggle.
Eventually though, you’ll find that as your language develops, your ability to understand improves. And if you don’t understand, then the lecturers are easy to approach and question. If that’s not really your thing, then write an e-mail and they will answer!
Studying Law on an Erasmus Scheme – The Pros
So that’s a little about what to expect etc. but what you really want to know is about the pros and cons, right? I’ll begin with pros. Studying abroad is such a great opportunity that broadens your horizons and lets you discover who you are. If you thought you were independent before, try living abroad without your friends or family for a year!
Studying law on an Erasmus Scheme looks great on your CV; employers are always looking for that one standout quality from applicants and candidates, and showing them that you have studied in a foreign country is something that really catches the eye.
As mentioned previously, there are a huge range of modules that you can choose from, things you thought you’d never have the chance to study, and modules that will really capture your interests. By participating in an Erasmus program, you’ll meet new people, make great international friends, and travel as much as you could possibly want! And not to mention, your language ability will be enhanced!
Studying Law on an Erasmus Scheme – The Cons
As great as studying abroad can be, there are some obvious drawbacks to studying law on an Erasmus scheme. If you’re the type of person who gets homesick, then this may not be for you. Yes you meet new people, but before you know it, you’re craving those home comforts and to have your family and friends around you, and I know, I speak from personal experience here.
On a Sunday be prepared to have something of a quiet day. Germany SHUTS DOWN on a Sunday, the shops close so I’d suggest that you bring something to keep you entertained: favourite films, books, games, anything. Or why not spend an afternoon keeping up to date with all the latest cases and legal news?
Whilst your language will undoubtedly improve, it can be a struggle at first. Forget everything you learned in the classroom because it simply does not prepare you for life abroad. I’d never learned how to register as a citizen or how to open a bank account in German, and yet it was one of the first things I had to do here.
I don’t want to finish this article on a negative note, so let me simply say that my experience abroad, studying and living day-to-day, has been the best decision I have ever made. It’s not for everybody, but if you decide to go ahead and study a Joint Honours Law degree with a language, I promise you, it’s something you will never regret.
The views expressed by DG Academy contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to Duncan Gibbins Solicitors
All information is supplied in good faith but we accept no responsibility for any loss you may incur by following the advice here on these pages.
Studying Law on an Erasmus Scheme – What DG Academy Says
As Liam states above, studying law on an Erasmus scheme is a great way to make you stand out from the crowd. Studying abroad demonstrates to employers that you are likely to be an independant and confident individual; skills that are vital in a law career.
Our advice to you in an interview would be to stress what challenges you faced during your year abroad and how successfully you overcame them. For example, by highlighting how difficult it was to understand the language sometimes, it will impress them if you can demonstrate that you showed initiative in finding ways to solve this problem, as Liam clearly did.
Please also note that often people write “travelling” as a hobby on their interests on their CV. Later (during interview) they reveal “travelling” actually means a week or two in Magaluf. That’s not “travelling”, it’s a holiday! However, if you can prove that you’ve “travelled” or lived abroad, it does demonstrate to employers that you are willing to try things outside of your comfort zone
If you’ve studied abroad in another county, or your experience at studying law on an Erasmus scheme was completely different to Liam’s, then we want to hear from you.
Alternatively if you would like to write for the Academy website please email Beth Nunnington for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
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