On Tuesdays I feature a traveler and today I’m featuring Courtney Stricklen who has studied abroad in two different countries. Most people don’t study abroad in one country let alone two! And guess which Supreme Court Justice taught one of her courses? Read on to find out and please comment with your thoughts on her answers, ok?
1. What made you study abroad during law school and how did you find out about the programs available?
I was a total nomad. I figured there wasn’t going to be a better opportunity to go while I was in law school, and since I was paying for school anyway, I may as well make a vacation out of it. I also teach full-time so summers abroad just called to me.
My law school, South Texas College of Law, is really great about diverse opportunities and there was always someone available at a table or in the classrooms that could answer questions about studying abroad.
2. Why did you choose London and Malta?
I chose Malta because the program offered there that summer was a course with Chief Justice John Roberts of the US Supreme Court. As a law student it was kind of a why the hell wouldn’t I thing. Especially since it was right on the heels of the historic Obamacare decision which he very carefully avoided mentioning anything about. I tried.
Also, I had no idea Malta existed until this trip. When I got there I realized how amazing it was that I ended up there because it turns out one of my favorite novels, The Count of Monte Cristo, mentions it, and it is also the country where the apostle Paul was shipwrecked.
I chose London the following year because my husband was working there and would be for four months. So it worked out perfectly that the immigration courses I wanted to take were being taught there (I’m now an immigration attorney). We were able to spend the entire summer together in London traveling across Europe.
3. How long did you study abroad?
I was in Malta for 8 weeks, and London was a 6 week program. But I stayed a bit longer each time.
4. Where did you live while you were studying (dorm, apartment, home stay).
In Malta we stayed in arranged housing (though not really student housing) that consisted of apartments. Ours was a 2 bedroom split between 4 people. It was certainly not as western as I’m used to, but it wasn’t bad.
In London my husband and I stayed in a remarkable corporate apartment in Spitalfields. Amazing accommodations via his employer. But I did visit with some of my friends at the student housing which was very nice, modern, and dorm-like.
5. Did you notice any major cultural differences while you were living abroad?
In Malta, I did notice that there was some mistreatment to the other black girl in our group. She was darker skinned and she attributed the treatment to that. I’m half-black and was only greeted with curious stares, complimentary mostly, of people trying to figure out what I was, ethnically. Other than that, there was no huge cultural difference to me. Aside from young teenagers smoking and drinking out in public, and the smoking in general. But I soon came to realize that was a euro thing and not just a Malta thing.
In London, I really appreciated how diverse it was. I live in Houston and it’s very diverse. But it’s a segregated diversity. I didn’t get that sense in London. It was very free and open and accepting in my experience.
6. What differences did learn about that you grew to appreciate? Are there any cultural norms of either country that you now do in your own life?
I think I may have answered the first part of this in the previous question. Both countries were western enough for me not to feel as though there was any cultural norm in particular I could or should adopt. Other than really admiring the European public transportation system, which in Texas would be hard to match because of the size, there wasn’t much that I would want to adopt.
7. Were you able to travel at all while you were living abroad?
The best part about spending more than a month in Europe was being able to travel so easily to other places. I had the mindset that it would never be cheaper than it was while I was there. So I went to Athens and Rome and Paris and Mykonos. I tried Egypt but they were on the verge of their rebellion so that was a no for me. But it’s still on my list.