Between May 30 and July 9, 2011, a group of 11 2L and 3L Gonzaga Law students traveled to and within China as part of a new study abroad program in conjunction with the law schools at the University of Montana and the University of South Dakota.
Although Gonzaga students have long had the opportunity to spend the summer studying in Florence, Italy, this marks the first time that they have had the chance to study abroad as part of a Gonzaga-sponsored program in China.
“Sending students to China is a challenging cultural endeavor, very different from sending someone to England or Germany,” says Prof. George Critchlow, who spearheaded the study abroad program while serving as interim dean during the 2010-11 school year.
The program itself is also unique among the rare examples of study abroad programs in China offered by other American law schools.
Unique program has students traveling among venues
“So far as I know, ours is the only type of program where students move to different venues,” he says. “It’s attractive to a certain kind of student who wants a variety of geographical and cultural experiences.”
Critchlow also directed the Gonzaga in Florence Summer Law Program this past summer, after which he spent a week in China reviewing the new program.
The 35 participating students from the three law schools began with 14 days at the law school of the China Youth University for Political Sciences (CYUPS) in Beijing, where they took two one-week courses on the Chinese legal system and comparative law.
“After completing those two intensive courses, they got on an airplane and flew to a city named Guiyang, which is more of a rural setting off the beaten path,” explains Critchlow. “You don’t see too many Western tourists there.”
Travel by bus to Chongquing, largest city in world
Following two weeks and two courses in business law and negotiations at the Guizhou University of Finance and Economics (GUFE) in Guiyang, the students traveled by bus to Chongqing. It is the largest city in the world, with a population that sources put between 29 and 32 million.
For the past three years, the Southwest University of Political Science and Law (SWUPL) in Chongqing has sent a delegation of Chinese students to study at Gonzaga Law. This was the first time SWUPL has hosted Gonzaga Law students, who took courses in trade and environmental law alongside the other study abroad participants.
While there, the students also took a three-day boat trip up the Yangtze River to visit the Three Gorges Dam and learn about its economic and environmental impact firsthand.
Participation by Chinese exposes GU students to new perspectives
Another noteworthy twist on the conventional study abroad program was the inclusion of Chinese students and co-teachers in the classrooms. This exposed the American students to different ideologies and methodologies.
“Students were very pleased to have this experience,” says Critchlow. “They were exhausted, but you could tell that for many of them it was a life-changing experience. They had really bonded as a group and they got a lot out of this.”
Based on the preliminary student feedback, he says it is all the more apparent that China presents a meaningful foreign study opportunity for law students and could be a significant ongoing complement to the Florentine study abroad program.
“This is an example of the law school making sure that it’s being responsive in a very progressive way to modern, global educational needs that are relevant to students and their career opportunities,” he says.
“China’s going to be the superpower that counts. We’ve got to have lawyers that can work with them. And our students know that.”