Words by Ian Jenkins, a Law and Society major at Hood College who studied abroad in Sydney with CAPA International Education during spring semester 2015. Below, he talks about his internship abroad at Without Borders Legal.
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Coming abroad with a major in Law and Society was a little intimidating. At my home university, Hood College, the Law and Society major is a field, which incorporates a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for law school and careers in the legal profession such as prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges. The Law and Society major is a very unique and open major. There are many different fields of study within law and being an undergraduate student means you have to have a little recognition of each, whether it is criminal law, property law or family law.
I remember at the first internship abroad orientation, I was the only person without a pre-selected internship. I was informed that an internship has not been found for me because of the difficulty in obtaining an undergraduate internship at a law firm; however, CAPA pulled through and placed me at an internship with a thriving law firm, Without Borders Legal (WB for short).
After receiving my internship placement, I had no idea what to expect. However, due to my prior jobs, I knew how to ace an interview. Prior to going into the interview, I conducted my own research about the law firm. I looked up what kind of law they specialized in, where they are located and who are their current solicitors. Looking ahead, I anticipated what questions they would ask me, so I wrote down some answers beforehand. When I arrived at the interview, my boss was very relaxed and down to earth. He asked me more personal questions about my life and how I felt living in Australia, rather than work-related questions. This just demonstrates the genuine sincerity of the Australian culture.
My interactions with individuals in the workplace was always friendly, however, I did have some conflict due to a language barrier. This was something I did not expect. On many occasions, I would answer phone calls and the person behind the phone would be speaking Chinese! Unfortunately, I cannot speak nor understand Chinese and I would hand the phone to a fellow intern. Although this did slow me down occasionally, it also allowed me to be more considerate and patient with possible clients.
My duties for my internship varied. I would usually have a new task every day, so I became accustomed to expecting the unexpected. For example, on my first day I was sent to a business firm to engage in a legal settlement. While on the other hand, within my last few weeks, I was sent to take a two hour train ride and drop off some paperwork at a client’s home. On many occasions, it felt like I was a paperboy one day and the next I was a legal advisor. It was both exciting and scary, but the utmost rewarding experience.
I have taken away a few things from my internship:
1. Always say yes. When you’re in another country, learning for your professional career, take steps that make you uncomfortable; you will learn a lot from those experiences.
2. Expect the unexpected. Do not come into your internship expecting a routine. Things are bound to pop up and there is nothing you can do about it. It is always a good idea to be prepared for the inevitable.
3. Do not be afraid to ask questions! As an intern, you are there to learn. If you don’t have questions, then you’re doing something wrong. How are you supposed to learn and not have questions?
This internship experience allowed me to not only understand myself better, but also helped clarify what I want to do with my career. In the end, you should take this learning experience in and enjoy it for what it’s worth; this experience CAPA provides is truly life-changing.