Studying abroad can be a daunting yet exciting prospect. Some of our past study abroad students and our dean Jean- Noël Ezingeard share their experiences with us.
Jean- Noël Ezingeard, current Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law at Kingston University
A student exchange brought Kingston's Dean to Britain, and he's not looked back, read his story by visiting "Erasmus changed my life" published in The Independent, Michael Prest, Thursday, 1 October 2009
I can safely say that opting to study Law with a year abroad at Kingston University was one of the best decisions I ever made. At school, I was certain that a straight law degree would suffice. However, and with the benefit of hindsight, choosing to study abroad has been a blessing. You may ask why? And the simple answer for me is opportunity.
The biggest bonus was when, in my third year of study, I set off for Jean Moulin University in Lyon. Many of my piers found this daunting and unappealing. I can safely say that everyone who went in my year had an amazing time. I found this experience to be life changing. It is tough, I give you that. However the year I spent in Lyon taught me more about learning (and about myself) then I could have hoped for. Not only did I study French Law in a very well respected University, I also obtained a French diploma in law (DEUF – Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Françaises) which has impressed in every interview I have ever been to. I familiarised myself with an area of law, that, although not strictly relevant to English Law, becomes more relevant when the areas of International Law affect our own legal system.
Work aside, I had a cracking social life and joined a number of societies and even played Rugby for the local team, Lyon Olympique. Many of the girls joined the local hockey team and there were always parties and events to go to (Lyon has a large student population). Put it this way, if you are worried about leaving home because of friends and family you may leave behind – don’t. My year in Lyon flew and I was home before I knew it.
I have to say that the full benefits of my year in Lyon became so apparent when I returned home for my final year at Kingston. In my recollection my year group were streams ahead of the other final year students and I believe we nearly all achieved high 2:1s (as did the year before). Studying in France, as I mentioned before, teaches you how to work. The hours are longer and if you work half as hard as a French Law student, you are still going to be more than prepared when your final exams come round at the end of your final year.
Following my time at Kingston I attended the College of Law in Guildford and after a year of travelling am in my second year as a Trainee Solicitor at Laytons solicitors. I still smile when I get passed files from French clients or have to be shuffled in to the Senior Partner’s office because he is on a call with a French client and can say with some confidence that I don’t think I would be sitting here today without having studied Law with French Law. Incidentally, all of the other trainees in my years intake spent a year abroad as part of their degree as well – which I think speaks for itself!
My Erasmus experience, which I spent in Germany and Belgium, was a truly “one of a kind” experience – new places, new cultures and new people.
Throughout my exchange year I tried to discover and absorb everything that these great European countries had to offer:
- admiring the breathtaking German cathedrals and castles untouched by time.
- Flemish guildhouses lined up on the cobblestoned market squares of old towns of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent.
- Enjoying delicious Lebkuchen (type of gingerbread) with mulled wine during a stroll on a Weihnachtsmarkt in Mannheim.
- Having a picnic with friends on a sandy beach of the famous Belgian coast.
But apart from things I enjoyed simply as a tourist, I had a great time as a student!
In Germany the international network of students organised superb themed parties and events (opera, karaoke contests, ‘running dinners’ to name just a few) literally every night. I also went on wonderful trips to Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, and Heidelberg as well as to Geneva, where our group visited the UN headquarters and was invited to attend the Economic and Social Council’s sessions.
The academic side of my Erasmus life was as exciting as the social one; my study in the magnificent castle, where Mannheim University has its main campus, included law of international organisations, international economic law, IP rights and Islamic law. The professors were always friendly and trying to involve the students in academic discussions.
The similar high standard of lectures made a great impression on me at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, one of the best universities in Europe. For someone interested in various areas of European law this is definitely the place to go! In addition, the proximity of Brussels allowed me to practice some French, not to mention the great cultural life offered by the Belgian capital.
All this is really just in a nutshell…but most importantly, my whole year wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for the amazing people whom I met and made friends with, and I think the interaction between the international students themselves and the local community in the host country is the very essence of the Erasmus experience.
Studying law at Kingston University gave me a great insight not only in English law but also in European and comparative law due to the course structure. After the second year, I had the opportunity to study a year abroad in Sweden at Lund University where I was able to meet locals and students from all over the world. The Erasmus year exceeded my expectations and I was exposed to a constant cultural exchange with other students and the law school faculty.
My Erasmus year also included a lot of different social activities from sporting activities to going out and travelling to the remotest places in Scandinavia and a rather fun road trip to Russia. Besides having fun every day of my Erasmus year, it was also a great opportunity to mature intellectually and be challenged in a completely different country and academic environment which immensely benefited me upon my return to Kingston where I completed my final year at the law school.