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Nicola Hackett (Law Plus) – University Immersion Programme 2015

"When I first heard about the Sichuan University Immersion Program in Chengdu, I was intrigued by the idea of travelling to such a far-away location to study law on an international level with students from many different universities worldwide.

Having never taken the opportunity to study abroad throughout my degree, and as I was coming to the end of my final undergraduate year, I thought that applying for the programme could lead to a unique international opportunity which  would not only be a great attribute to my own personal growth, but to my professional career.

Once I found out that I had been chosen to represent the School of Law, UL, in Chengdu I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little anxious. I feared it might be difficult for us to integrate with the local and international students given the language barrier while the prospect of competing against students from world-renowned universities in various competitions was daunting to say the least.

The reality of the situation was very different from what I expected. Although we learned a lot about the differences between Chinese and Irish culture, integration wasn’t a problem at all.

We formed friendships not only with the Chinese students, but with international students from all over the globe. The competitions and presentations were actually enjoyable with all of our team performing very well and scooping a number of top prizes!

Of course there were cultural differences – lots of people everywhere, different foods and buildings adorned with neon lights that illuminated the streets. These differences were surprising at first but by day 2/3 our senses were already acclimatising. That said, we still found ourselves awed by the spectacular sights and scenes, even right up to our last day when we visited the most spectacular giant Buddha sculpture which stood at 71 meters tall – the scale of it was hard to comprehend even while standing right in front of it.

During the program, I took two law courses: “Legal Systems of the World” and “Selected Topics in Comparative Tort”. All of the courses were taught through English – which was vital considering I did not speak any more than 2 or 3 phrases in Chinese when I arrived in China.

I enjoyed both courses, but I particularly enjoyed “Legal Systems of the World” as I had never studied such a module during my time in UL and found it very beneficial. I enjoyed the group work element of this course as it gave us a chance to speak to the Chinese students about the law in their country, but also allowed us to learn about everyday life in China from them, and allowed us to tell them about Ireland. Both of the courses I chose had a significant international/comparative basis which was different to my undergraduate studies and gave me a new perspective in my legal-thinking.

All in all, the experience heralded much more for me than I had ever imagined. Of course, I took the obvious benefits from the trip – the lectures provided me with more international legal knowledge, I had the opportunity to build connections with people from many countries all over the world and I gained a new perspective about cultures that I had very little prior knowledge of. However, I took much more than just that from the trip.

I built new memories and friendships that I will not forget. I developed a tie to a country that I never before thought that I would have the chance to visit and the experience truly added to my own growth as a person.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will always lead to new experiences that shape you as a person, and travelling to Chengdu to take part in the Sichuan University Immersion Program has certainly done that for me. I will be forever grateful to UL for providing me with that opportunity."