The world is your classroom

CARLISLE, Pa. — Early last year, Tucker Anderson, a third-year student at Penn State’s Dickinson Law, made the decision to spend a semester abroad. While contemplating which legal studies program to pursue, he thought about his interest in international and elder law, and how a semester abroad would complement the courses that he’d already taken in law school.

Tucker’s family is from Birkerød, Denmark, and he spent a portion of his adult life there. Because he is fluent in Danish, can read and write the most commonly used form of Norwegian (Bokmål), and has a great love for Europe in general, Tucker made the obvious choice to study at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Bergen, Norway. He worked with Dickinson’s International Programs Office stateside to set things in motion for his study abroad experience.

Dickinson Law students participating in study abroad programs embrace the opportunity for many different reasons and have specific goals for what they hope to achieve during their semester away from southcentral Pennsylvania. Each of Dickinson's 10 study abroad programs focus on the development of global lawyering skills, as well as other practical skill sets such as language proficiency, a comparative understanding of legal systems that significantly differ from what we are accustomed to here in the U.S., and a deeper appreciation for the complexity of the international legal market.

Tucker arrived in Bergen last fall and immediately began to form relationships and immerse himself in his classwork and internship, as well as the culture and expansive cuisine. During his time abroad, he took two classes: "Human Rights: Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights" and "EU and EEA Commercial Law." Tucker quickly found that unlike his law school experience in the U.S., actual classroom hours were minimal (three to four hours per week), and he spent more time conducting independent legal research and writing academic papers than attending actual lectures.

While in Norway, Tucker also spent time as a legal intern at the Bergen Technology Transfer Office (BTO) where he earned the respect of his peers and boss. BTO is an intellectual property organization that works to innovate and commercialize research into the global market to ensure that knowledge and inventions benefit individuals, industry, and society. According to Tucker, BTO has a similar corporate culture and layout to Google.

When asked about his professional responsibilities and the lasting value of his externship experience at BTO in Norway, Tucker noted the following: “There is no comparable experience you can gain here in the U.S. Not only was I trusted with complex and critically important work, I was challenged with translating dense legal language through multiple languages. The range of substantive material I worked with was incredible. I worked on contracts that will bring cutting-edge cancer treatments to the U.S.; collaboration agreements that will train dogs to identify unique forms of cancer; cost-sharing agreements that will bring salmonoid vaccines to salmon farms all over the world; and a string of contracts that touched upon work being done with the European Space Agency, marine science laboratories, and film studios all over Europe and the U.S. BTO housed eight different incubators (aerospace, marine biology, marine technology, film and television media, biomedical, bio, emerging tech), each needing IP representation for the inventions and innovations that were developed during my time there. Beyond that, BTO truly had a familial atmosphere — one that I truly miss.”

In addition to international legal exposure, Norway offered plenty to see and do — and Tucker capitalized on all of it. He joined the university’s sailing club, feasted on the local cuisine, hiked the trails, built lifelong relationships, visited the landmarks, and vacationed throughout the European Union during his breaks.

A semester spent abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The time you spend in a foreign country studying law and working in an internship setting guarantees you’ll see the U.S. legal system in a whole new way. This experience could be the capstone to your formal education and impact the trajectory of your entire career. You’ll not only refine your ability to think critically and communicate clearly, you will also have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and form new friendships—all while enjoying some amazing adventures.

Tucker was afforded experiences and a unique cultural component that suited his personal and legal interests. Upon graduation, Tucker plans to move to Vermont and pursue a career in elder law.

View photos from Tucker's study abroad experience.

Students wishing to strengthen their overall marketability as a lawyer are encouraged to take advantage of Dickinson Law's proven foreign studies program by contacting Amy Gaudion, director of graduate and international education, at acg14@psu.edu.

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Last Updated May 16, 2016