“So, what are you doing this summer?” Every law school student hears this question regularly. Traditional answers include working as a research assistant, a judicial clerk, or a summer associate, and each of these experiences is unique and valuable. However, during my first year of law school, my answer to that question was an unconventional one. I studied abroad in Rome through the Temple Law Rome program.
A number of factors contributed to my decision to go to Rome; I had always been interested in studying abroad and my closest friends were enrolled in the program. But in hindsight, this program delivered more benefits than I anticipated at the time of enrollment. For me, Temple Law Rome provided valuable insights that I used in job interviews and enabled me to really get to know my Temple Law professors.
Rome is incredible. I spent my mornings crossing the Tiber river and admiring the Vatican’s architecture on my walk to Temple’s Rome campus. I spent my afternoons and evenings strolling through the city streets, periodically taking breaks to grab a cappuccino or a slice of pizza. The number of attractions to see in Rome is astonishing—the Forum, the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the plethora of breathtaking Piazzas, and the list goes on. Even with five weeks at my disposal, I was unable to see everything. Almost every weekend, my friends and I would travel throughout Europe. I rode bikes over and around the canals of Amsterdam. I celebrated in Barcelona as FC Barcelona won the European championship. Looking back now, I collected an eye-opening wealth of experiences.
Of course, my five weeks studying abroad in Rome also included … studying. The Rome classes, however, were structured differently than my typical Temple Law classes. Rather than concentrating solely on reading case after case, the classes in the Rome program devoted a considerable amount of time to exploring the differences between the Italian legal system (a civil law jurisdiction with less liability and tort laws) and the American legal system. These lessons included understanding how the role of lawyers and judges differed from one country to the other. We also visited Italian law firms and had the opportunity to hear firsthand from local Italian lawyers about how they practiced law. Some Temple Law Rome students even got hands-on experience working as interns at Italian law firms. This approach to studying law highlighted how differences in legal systems can influence the day to day lives of its citizens. For example, I noticed that warning labels and signs were seemingly non-existent. I found these practical effects often served as the backdrop for the papers I wrote throughout my summer.
In addition to broadening my perspectives, the Temple Law Rome program also served as a great opportunity to build relationships with two of my Temple Law professors. The year that I attended the Rome program, it was taught by Professor Alice Abreu and Professor James Shellenberger, two of Temple’s most highly regarded professors. In fact, both have been honored with the Great Teacher Award from Temple University. As you might have guessed, their classes are quick to fill up, and often, Temple law students graduate without ever having the opportunity to know them. On our first day in Rome, both professors led a day long walking tour through the city. The tour was filled with details and recommendations from their past travels to Rome. Throughout the next five weeks, we frequently went with Professor Abreu and/or Professor Shellenberger on day trips to take in the sights and learn about Rome’s history, and concluded our trip with a farewell party. It was refreshing to learn their thoughts on the practice of law and professional developments. The considerable amount of time we spent together socially fostered a relationship that continued throughout my tenure at Temple Law.
Interestingly, the Temple Law Rome program proved to be valuable in my job interviews as well. One benefit was its uniqueness. As I mentioned earlier, studying abroad isn’t a typical way to spend your summer in law school. As I recall, studying abroad in Rome came up in in all my interviews. During these interviews, I talked about my experiences traveling and immersing myself in new cultures, as well as my classes and the practical effects arising out of the differences I noticed between the American and the Italian legal systems. Overall, I was able to convey my enthusiasm for the program and the way it shaped my perceptions. Reflecting now, these discussions demonstrated facets of my personality and my interest in the law without having to shoehorn them into the natural flow of conversation. Moreover, I like to believe that these discussions made me relatable and memorable in my interviews.
If you couldn’t tell already, I thoroughly enjoyed the Temple Law Rome program, and consider it beneficial for my professional development. Although it is not a traditional way to spend your first summer in law school, it should not be overlooked. It is an incredible experience and, even if your time is only spent in Rome, being able to thoroughly explore that city will have been worth it. The relationships you will build with your professors and your classmates will not only strengthen over the time you spend abroad, but continue when you return. And, when you return, the stories you tell about the adventure you went on may help get the thing we all want after law school: a job.
Aakash Patel is a member of Temple Law Class of 2017. He attended the Temple Rome Program in 2015, during his 1L summer. Currently, Aakash works as an associate at Condo Roccia & Koptiw, a boutique intellectual property firm in Philadelphia.