A Summer to Remember: Living and Learning in the Beautiful Cities of Europe

Wake Forest law students seized the opportunity to live and learn in London, Vienna and Venice this summer.  In each program, courses focused on a comparison of US law with the law of the host country.   Students left these programs with a greater sense of  both the social and legal culture of the various countries along with unforgettable memories of a summer spent with fellow students and professors in three of Europe’s most vibrant cities.

Reflections on London and Vienna
By Professor Richard Schneider

The Wake Forest School of Law London Program 2007 enjoyed some remarkably located classroom quarters this year.  Because Worrell House is being renovated we used the facilities at the Florida State University Study Centre just down Great Russell Street from the British Museum.  Students and faculty lived nearby.  One can’t really imagine a better or more convenient location in the heart of London.  The students took full advantage of the myriad opportunities presented by the great city.

Professor Tom Roberts taught a comparative land use class and I, as a last-minute replacement for Professor Wilson Parker, taught the course in the history of the common law.  This is the first time that I participated in the London Program and the experience has made me want to return as soon as possible.  Professor Roberts and I, with significant assistance from Professor Parker back home, brought to bear the full range of  invaluable visits and speakers usually associated with this program, including a visit with Lord Phillips, the Chief Judge of England and Wales, in his courtroom, a visit to the House of Lords with the Lords in session (on the day the Queen accepted Gordon Brown as Prime Minister), and lectures in Oxford and Cambridge.  During our trip to Scotland we met with a former member of the European Parliament and visited the Scottish Parliament which happened that day to be addressing global warming issues, among others.

Professor Roberts’s class, in particular, benefited from a couple of long and detailed walking tours that focused attention on the way London has evolved through the centuries.   My own favorite spot was Brick Lane.  My class, on the other hand, pored in detail over Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and then saw the play performed in the Globe Theatre.  The students “barely noticed” the rain that fell on them as they stood and gazed up at the stage from their places as genuine Elizabethan groundlings.  We all marveled at the way Shakespeare made the law speak with such eloquence and yet with such unadorned power as Portia, disguised as a “learned doctor,” delivered her final disputations against Shylock.

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The Wake Forest School of Law Vienna Program 2007 benefited as usual from the outstanding interactions between the University of Vienna students and the Wake Forest students.  Among the 14 European students who participated in the program this year, we not only had Austrian students but also a Pole, a Czech, a Croat, and a German.  The students really began to get to know each other at the introductory  banquet in the Vienna hills at one of the most beautiful “heuriger” in the region.  Classroom discussions took off as the students realized how much they had to learn from each other.  Social interactions followed apace.

Professor Mark Hall taught a course in comparative health law and I (transitioning from London) taught my course in comparative environmental law which focuses on the different approaches to global warming in the European Union and the United States.  In class, the students heard from a couple of University of Vienna professors, including Professor Hausmaninger who has worked with me for several years now to make this program such a success, and an Austrian Supreme Court judge.  We also had the unique opportunity to meet the first woman President of the Austrian Supreme Court and to hear from our own Chief Justice John Roberts who was also in Vienna.  Professor Hall’s class visited the Vienna Hospital, and I took my class to Linz to tour the largest steel plant in Austria (and largest emitter of CO2 in the country).

The students punctuated their time in Vienna, which itself is such a lively and accessible city, by travelling many weekends to cities near Vienna, including Bratislava, Prague, and Budapest.  Some also ventured to Salzburg to link the young Mozart of that town to the mature Mozart of Vienna.  Finally, I can’t help but mention the enormously successful trip to the karaoke bar at the end of the program where the students persuaded me to regale them with my own version of “Sweet Caroline.”  The students, European and American, did an invaluable job of drowning me out during the refrains.  I think the evening well expressed the happy journey of learning and life that we had all traveled zussamen (together) in this beautiful city.

Reflections on Venice
By Professor Alan Palmiter

This year 15 Wake law students studied with 24 Italian law students, who came from universities in Bologna, Milan, Padua, Solerno, and Venice.  Besides sharing their classroom experience, the students also went to outdoor cafes, played "Mafia," traveled on weekends, learned new songs, prepared dinners, watched fireworks, and even celebrated a classmate’s graduation together.  Meanwhile, the professors met with Italian academic and professional colleagues from Venice, Padua, Florence, Bologna, and Udine.  The professors engaged in some of the activities that the students did, but not all. 

Assistant Dean Susan Montaquila, who had taught a course last summer in Istanbul to international LLM students, brought her expertise to a course on comparative legal systems.  Professor Alan Palmiter, who has been the faculty adviser to the program since its inception in 1993, again taught a course on comparative company law.  A number of the Italian students took the courses for academic credit, and for all of them the program offered a chance to participate in a "Socratic" law school experience (unusual in Italy).

In an exercise comparing cultural and legal knowledge, the American and Italian students were asked to draw maps of the European Union and the United States (identifying the largest and smallest states); to name the founding states of the EU and the US; to name the president of the EU Commission and the US; to identify three of the characters on the TV show "Friends"; and to predict who would be the world’s dominant power in 25 years. 

Answers:  the American students drew more accurate maps; the Italian students knew the original 13 US states as well as the Americans; no Americans knew that Jose Manuel Borroso presides over the EC Commission; all students knew their "Friends" (with an Italian preference for Joey); and the Americans predicted Europe, and the Europeans predicted the US (or China), would dominate during their lifetimes.