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Students in Dean’s Travel Study Program Explore China’s Legal System and Culture

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kaiti Decker '17 isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, even if it comes in the form of several scorpions on a stick. With some trepidation and some laughs, she consumed the Chinese delicacy and deemed it a highlight of her trip.

Decker was one of 17 St. John’s Law students exploring China’s legal system, history, and culture as participants in the nine-day Dean’s Travel Study Program held during the January intersession. Led by Dean Michael A. Simons, along with Director of Graduate Global Engagement Joshua M. Alter '13, this unique study abroad course was designed to give students hands-on experience in international and comparative law.

In the last several years, the Law School has forged strategic partnerships with some of China’s leading law schools. A number of Chinese students have come to St. John’s to continue their legal education in the Transnational Legal Practice LL.M. program. St. John’s has also hosted faculty and student delegates from:

  • Central South University
  • China Youth University (CYU)
  • East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPL)
  • Henan University of Economics and Law
  • Nankai University
  • Shantou University
  • Southwest University of Political Science and Law

Dong Xiang, from ECUPL, Tang Qiongqiong from Shanghai University of International Business and Economic Law, and Hu Qiao, from Zhejiang Gongshang University have participated in St. John’s Visiting Scholars Program, which gives partner school faculty the opportunity to conduct research in the United States.

“I was delighted to return to China with our students and to introduce them to some of the exceptional people and institutions that I’ve become acquainted with there,” Dean Simons says. “Our partnerships in China benefit our students and faculty, as well as and the Chinese students and faculty, and we look forward to sustaining and growing these mutual connections in the coming years.”

During their stay in Shanghai, the students took an Introduction to Chinese Law class at ECUPL. They also visited the Jun He Law Firm and the international law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP to get a comprehensive, insider’s view of law practice in China.

One of the course highlights was a lecture and group discussion with students at the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics (SUIBE). “It was so interesting to hear the SUIBE students’ questions about our laws and our experiences as law students and to observe the many differences between Chinese legal education and American legal education,” Kaiti Decker shares. “The first question they asked during a Q &A session was about the challenge of fair jury trials and, more specifically, the questions arising out of the O.J. Simpson verdict.”

In Beijing, the students attended an informative lecture at CYU on conflicts of laws within China. “It was really interesting to learn how different legal regimes within China co-exist,” says Matt Freeze ’17. “I had never really thought about how to enforce a Hong Kong judgment on the mainland, for example. I appreciated how the lecture took one important aspect of Chinese law and really put it under a microscope for us.”

The St. John’s students also experienced one of the country’s—and the world’s—cultural and architectural wonders: The Great Wall of China. “It took me over 26 years and more than a dozen trips to China to finally visit the Great Wall,” says Olivia Cheung '17, who was born in Hong Kong. “It was moving to stand alongside the remnants of the country’s rich and complicated history. I know that, years from now, I’ll remember experiencing this iconic site with Dean Simons and my Law School classmates.”

Christopher Atlee F. Arcitio ’17 agrees that the Dean’s Travel Study Program has left a lasting impression. “This study abroad experience has cultivated a deep appreciation for China’s culture and its people,” he shares. “I carry the experience with me, and I know that it will guide my leadership of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and my work as an advocate for the Asian-American community." 

This semester, 14 students from China began their studies at St. John’s Law. “It’s wonderful to see our Chinese students thrive as members of the Law School community,” says Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies Sarah Kelly. “I truly enjoy working with them, with our partner schools, and with our visiting scholars. It’s a strong and meaningful affiliation that brings St. John’s to the world and the world to St. John’s.”