Eleven law students from China are spending six months at UConn School of Law, studying the U.S. legal system and experiencing American culture under a new partnership between UConn and Southeast University in Nanjing, China.
After completing introductory courses with Professor David Woods, the students will join the rest of the student body when classes begin at the end of August to begin a semester of further study. At the end of six months the Southeast students will have a robust introduction to U.S. law and society – and a strong start at a UConn LLM (master of laws) degree should they decide to continue their studies in the United States.
The new program came together quickly, thanks to Yan Hong, director of graduate admissions and Carrie Field, director of graduate and exchange programs at UConn Law. Hong visited Southeast University last year to talk informally about a relationship, which in time became an official agreement. To get the program approved and operating, Hong and Field worked with the UConn Law business office on tuition rates and with the university’s International Student and Scholar Services and its Office of Global Affairs on visa and other issues.
The eight-week summer introduction gives the students extra time to get acculturated. “It’s a great design because it allows them to get a head start as a special cohort, but then not to be isolated or segregated throughout their whole program,” Woods said. And he has been nothing but impressed by their work so far.
“They’ve really dived into American law and taken a deep bite,” he said. “And they’re moving at least the speed that a 1L class normally moves. So where we expect this kind of program to make a slow start, it has been quite the opposite.”
Jiaxian Qiu said she enrolled in the program to learn about other cultures and to further a career goal to work in corporate law. She said she was immediately impressed by the beauty of the campus and is looking forward to meeting classmates from other countries in the fall.
“I really want to make friends with them,” she said. “Like the saying goes ‘one world, one dream’ and we hope that we will live in harmony and just like a united group and make progress every day, and help each other every day.”
The Southeast students have also had formative experiences outside the classroom. They have traveled to Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. They served as a jury in a mock trial for Hartford High School students and attended a Yard Goats baseball game. They also visited the Connecticut Supreme Court and the state Capitol, where they met Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
In the fall the students will take another nine credits in courses of their choosing. The offerings are flexible in a way that speaks to the potential of the program.
“The beauty of this thing is that some of them have already expressed that they would like to continue to get their degree here,” Hong said.