Recent UMass Law graduates Riana Yaman and Augustus Duncan spent a semester at the University of Limerick School of Law in Ireland
Study abroad offers experiences of a lifetime—opportunities to travel, meet students from around the world, immerse in different cultures and nations, and study subjects not available in the United States.
UMass Law is one of just a few law schools in New England that offers study abroad through an exchange program at the University of Limerick School of Law in Ireland. UMass Law students can take classes in international and comparative law while Limerick students are exposed to U.S. law.
A range of interesting classes are offered to UMass Law students in Limerick, including Comparative Legal Systems, Contemporary Challenges in Medical Law and Ethics, Counter Terrorism Law and International Business, Media Law, and Law of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Students are expected to enroll on a full-time basis and are assigned an academic advisor. Up to two exchange students per year are accepted and most visit in the fall of their 3L year.
"Our exchange program with the University of Limerick School of Law affords our students the opportunity to study international, comparative, and European Union law in depth and in context," said Eric Mitnick, dean of UMass Law. "Moreover, the exposure to a different culture, and the inherent need for students to adjust to a foreign environment, provides lessons that will carry through and benefit program participants' careers and lives for many years to come"
Augustus Duncan, JD '23 and Riana Yaman, JD '23 were the first UMass Law students to return to Limerick since March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. Duncan, who graduated from UMass Law magna cum laude, majored in psychology and minored in history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Yaman, a sociology major and graduate of Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, offered insights into their academic and cultural experience in Ireland.
Why did you decide to study abroad?
“We decided to study abroad because we thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about different legal systems. Ireland was especially interesting to us because it stems from the English system, much like the U.S., and we were intrigued to see if the law evolved in a similar manner. We also thought that this was a unique opportunity that most law schools do not offer, and it would help us stand out to future employers. In undergrad, our schools offered a study abroad program, and we both regretted not doing it then, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do so.
“Augustus comes from an Irish family, and he thought it would be an amazing opportunity to get to know his ancestry and roots and explore his home country. We both also love to travel and thought it would be a great opportunity to travel across Ireland, enjoy the nature, and have the opportunity to see many different countries and experience different cultures across Europe as well.”
How was your experience?
“We had a great experience. We learned all that we wanted to learn and explored as much as was feasible, keeping in mind financial and time constraints. We experienced food and culture across Ireland and Europe.
“It was also very interesting to us that the legal system in Ireland was very similar to the U.S. They had different names for some of the laws we have here, but overall they described the same laws.”
Where did you travel?
“Before the semester began, we toured the wonders of Ireland and the Ring of Kerry. We stopped at different beaches and small towns during our drive from Dublin to Limerick. We saw the Skellig Islands, where they filmed some of the “Star War” movies. During the semester, we went to Portugal, England, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates.”
Did you take any classes that may be especially helpful in your future career?
“We took two business courses, which were very similar to the ones offered at UMass Law. We learned the way that the Irish codes restricted and limited business transactions and how they regulated the formation of businesses from partnerships to corporations.
“We took European Union Law which was very interesting to both of us. The course that stood out to me and was the most interesting was an introduction to the criminal justice system. I majored in sociology in undergrad and this course was about the intersection of sociological issues and the law, which is one of the major reasons I applied to law school.
“For me, this course will be very helpful in my career because our assignments were purely legal writing, not in terms of motions or court documents, but the persuasive legal writing that we as lawyers will use to persuade lawmakers and publish in legal articles.
For Duncan, the course that stood out the most to him was Media Law. "It held a lot of the same constitutional rights and protections as in the U.S., but the interesting part of the course was that the European Union also holds protections for journalists and individuals such as Freedom of Speech and what they call open justice, which is essentially that courts have to be accessible and open to the public," he said. "This will help me in my legal career because I am interested in international law and learning the two-tier protections of rights in Europe will aid me tremendously.”
Would you recommend this opportunity for UMass Law students? Why?
“We recommend this opportunity for UMass Law students because we think this is a very unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most of us will probably never be students again after we graduate to become lawyers, and we will probably never get another opportunity to learn about the different cultures, languages, and legal systems of the world. The reason we sought higher education is because of our love for learning, and that is exactly what an exchange program offers. It helps us learn in many ways, appreciate different people, and be tolerant of differences in cultures and views.
“A semester abroad also helps us expand our social network across the globe and make connections for future job opportunities outside and inside the U.S. It gives us a break from the stresses of law school as the courses are pass/fail. While you still need to put in the work and study, you also get to experience the fun side of being a student; socializing, joining different clubs and societies, and maybe even picking up a new hobby.”
Do you have any plans for after graduation?
“I would like to work in the private sector. I have not yet decided on my area of practice exactly, but I like environmental law, family law, and trademark law the most. In an ideal world I would work as an environmental lawyer somewhere in Europe,” said Yaman.
“I am particularly interested in litigation; I do not have a strong preference on the type of litigation as I enjoyed working in both civil and criminal cases. Ideally, I would like to work in the private sector as I believe there are more career opportunities and growth. I would like to work in the U.S. in the beginning of my career, but I hope to find something abroad specifically in Europe or Southeast Asia,” said Duncan.
“Overall, we had a good experience in law school and learned a lot. We made great, lasting relationships and memories that will last a lifetime,” Yaman added.