Gerard Butler and a Semester Abroad (John Geager)

[John Geager is a 3L at St. John’s University School of Law and was selected as a fall 2014 Academic Exchange participant.  John and two other St. John’s students spent the semester at the University of Glasgow, while two University of Glasgow students are spending time at St. John’s.  John is the Vice President of the Intellectual Property Law Society and the Treasurer of the Catholic Law Students Society. -Ed.]

With the recent revelation that The Doctor from Doctor Who had studied at The University of Glasgow at several points in the 1800s during his (time) travels, there has also been a revived buzz about another famous Glasgow alum. The Law School here is particularly proud and quick to point out that none other than Leonidas himself, Gerard Butler, studied here before beginning his acting career.

In all seriousness, though, if I had to use one word to describe my experience studying law for a semester in Scotland, I’d have to say “perspective.” Aside from the expected excitement and new experience for my first time traveling outside North America, this semester helped me appreciate the myriad perspectives and approaches to many things I had come to almost take for granted living my entire life in the Northeast US. Some aspects of life abroad are almost the same, like the ubiquity of Starbucks and many pop culture icons, but others are vastly different, particularly the availability of certain food. I’ve come to seriously miss New York pizza and bagels.

Overall, it has been a great semester but a very different law school experience from St. John’s and New York in general. It was apparent from the very beginning that in the UK, there existed a different approach to teaching and studying law in that it is theoretical. Since the UK is a common law nation, I hardly expected such a big difference in the way law was taught from the practical and case‐law‐based approach I had grown accustomed to following. I also came to realise that there was a very appreciable international impact that contributed greatly to the differing perspectives and certainly enriched the academic experience. From our first week in Glasgow, we saw that there were very many international students, both those who are pursuing full degrees and those studying at Glasgow as part of the Erasmus exchange or other study abroad programmes. In my law classes alone, there were students from many different law schools and legal backgrounds who were able to bring different and unique perspectives to analysing law. There were also a number of course instructors from different legal and cultural backgrounds that brought unique views to their teaching. One professor who was born and educated in Turkey before beginning her career, aside from her legal expertise, was able to give an account of the changing status of women in universities when she was pursuing her education in Turkey, and was able to debunk the notion that women were afforded less access to education there at the time, compared to other countries that many had thought to be more progressive.

Of course, there was also the obvious comparisons between EU law and US law, where there were certainly many differences. However it was interesting to see so many similarities. There are surprisingly some EU laws modeled after American law, like the competition laws written with an eye toward the US Sherman Act. There is even some similarity between the EU institutional system and the US federal system, with similar tensions and concerns about sharing and separation of powers troubling both. Of course, I also got a taste of the international perspective on US policy and image, both good and bad. When I had the lucky chance to seek out a computer store when I feared my laptop had crashed, the conversation with the tech gurus eventually turned to US politics. I found myself answering questions on the US government’s seeming ability to start wars without finishing them, something I had hoped to avoid. Thankfully the banter was light hearted and I wasn’t put on the hot seat for too long. I was also surprised by the appreciation and presence of American pop culture abroad. Many of the same TV shows, musicians, and even some sports teams have similar followings abroad. On the topic of sports, I made sure to make it to a Celtic football match, which was a ton of fun.

Alas, the semester and the wonderful experience must come to a close, but not before some more last‐minute traveling before my return to the States.

Cheers from the alma mater of The Doctor!

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