dmikesell's blog

Published: June 28, 2011

Hello from Nice, France! Let me introduce myself. I am Elysia Lopez, a current 2L student at Thomas Jefferson. I am here, studying in Nice for the next four weeks, and let me just say this – what a wonderful experience already! For those who do not speak any French, luckily there is a lot of assistance from Professor Susan Tiefenbrun (Director of the Nice Program), the assistant students (who are fluent this year) and the local people of France. While some do not speak English at all, they understand common phrases and are more than willing to try and help you get along. For those who took French in school, like me, it is an excellent way to practice what you have learned and grow in your skill. For the most part, though, most people speak basic English, so it is easy enough to order food and ask for directions. There are a few guidelines for living in Europe as an American and they are easy to pick up with a little work (for example: learning to be polite, trying their food, speaking at a lower volume and picking up some simple catch phrases in the native tongue). Living here for a month will not only educate us in the law, but in the beautiful French culture and customs!

On Saturday we all got to our hotels for the month. It was an exciting time for all – I am living with two friends that I met in my 1st year section and our apartment is gorgeous, surprisingly spacious (for Europe) and 1 block from the ocean! Going to the beach after an intensive 5 hour block of classes is absolutely rewarding – the best way to de-stress. Exploring the awe-inspiring old city of Nice is also a great way to de-stress after class. A good plan for summer school is to go to class, take a couple hours break exploring or swimming and then hit the books. If you work hard and focus, you may be able to finish around 8 or 9 pm, and have some time to explore the nightlife before bed for an early morning of classes.

Sunday morning we booked some trips for our three day weekends at the train station and found a grocery store nearby and bought some necessities. One of the best things about living abroad is checking out the local grocery stores. You can tell a lot about a culture by the foods they sell. Here in France, there is cheese of every kind imaginable and it is out-of-this-world delicious! Their breads are freshly baked daily and perhaps the best thing about this country. The wines are affordable, delicious, fresh and local. In general, the food in France is simply amazing and there is something for everyone to try and enjoy. Today I had the most amazing raspberry tarte, made with fresh berries. As for my weekend trips, I plan on seeing Montpellier, Florence, Cannes, Monaco, Antibes and Annecy. I am very excited to explore more of Southern Europe as I have previously explored more Northern cities and countries.

Monday was the first day of class and, while class is certainly intense and stressful, it is enjoyable. We all take 2 classes each, and have a choice between four interesting topics: International Human Rights, Internet law, Comparative Constitutional law, and Reconciling Cultural Diversity in Free Trade. The classes are different and intriguing, but don’t underestimate the work load. There is a lot of reading each day to complete for class, due to the fact that the program is only 4 weeks long and must be intensive by its nature, but also because there are only two classes, which are held daily. We also have guest lecturers about once or twice a week, and they speak on unique cultural or international topics. There is much to stimulate the mind in the classroom here in Nice, and it seems so far to be an enjoyable way to earn four credit hours while enjoying a summer abroad on the French Riviera!

Until next week…

Photos taken by Andrew Schiffman

Published: June 10, 2011

It is hard to believe that the three-week China International Law Study Abroad Program in Hangzhou, China has come to an end. It went by so fast, and we are all sad to leave. Last weekend we all went to Beijing to visit the Chinese People's Supreme Court, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, a typical Chinese home where an artist and his wife live and work, and the Beijing Opera as well as a Kungfu and Acrobat show, and much more including a Peking Duck banquet lunch.

The theme of the Supreme Court presentations by 4 learned Supreme Court Justices was the development of the Rule of Law in China, which completed the theme of our full-day international conference held in Hangzhou on May 27th.  All week long students have been traveling to Shanghai from Hangzhou on the speed train that takes only 3/4 of an hour to get to Shanghai. Wednesday we held our US v China Olympic Games in basketball and ping pong, and I am proud to report that TJSL representing the US won 46 to 24. We fought hard, and it was a great basketball game. We lost 14 to 12 in ping pong, and Eddie Chang was the TJSL finalist who truly competed on a very high level. We all had a great time. Tonight we pack and say goodbye to all our Chinese and American friends. Many of us make our way now through China and Europe to start the Nice Program on June 23, 2011 on the sunny, French Riviera. Not a bad way to learn about international and comparative law, earn either 4 or 8 credits, and fulfill requirements to obtain a Certificate in International Law,  n'est-ce pas? Zaichen to a fabulous group of students and professors who all worked together to make the China Program 2011 an unprecedented success!

Susan Tiefenbrun

Professor of Law

Director of China and Nice Programs

Published: June 06, 2011

We are creatures of familiarity.  We go through life doing things that we are accustomed to.  The first week in Hangzhou required some patience and openness.  As a westerner, life in Hangzhou is a crash course in being cultured. 

Hangzhou is home to 8 million people.  The density of the population is somewhat equivalent to that of New York City.  The lake in Hangzhou is one of the most beautiful sights in this city. The weather for the first week has not deviated from what many of us San Diegans are accustomed to.  We experience some rain, some sun, and some heat.  The first few days of the program we were blessed with some rain.

On the second day, I took a morning walk around the lake with a fellow classmate.  We were told the lake takes about five and a half hours to walk around, but about two hours to ride a bike.  Needless to say, we ventured for only an hour and half, stopping every so often to take photos of the picturesque scenes framed before us. There are no shortages of photo opportunities along the lake.  From the location on the lake by our hotel, there are three pagodas that are in sight and within walking distance.  Dave and I walked to the one closest to the lake and ascended to the top where we got a view of the entire lake and its surroundings.  The view was exceptional and reminded me much of being in New York on the Statute of Liberty, as I could see the entire lake and the buildings in the city, including our hotel.

The lake itself in Hangzhou is called Westlake.  Being in its presence you get a sense of peaceful serenity.  There is a constant flow of people walking around the lake, whether they are local or tourist.  There are also several coffee and teashops right on the lake to take a break from walking or in our case, to read and study.  One of the tea shops has a patio area that sit on the lake, similar to a large dock. Although there is a faint static noise of traffic and people in the background, the view, breeze and pleasant company make it relaxing and tranquil. 

The weekend trip to Suzhou, coined as the #1 silk manufacturing city in China, was true to its name.  One of our tour guides, Lily, explained to us that within the providence, the three “zhou’s” (“State” in Chinese) each had a distinct characteristic.  Hangzhou is the place for loving, Guangzhou is a place for eating, and Suzhou is the place for living.   

Upon our arrival to Suzhou, we went straight to a group lunch that consisted of traditional Chinese cuisine; this meal needed an acquired taste. The duck was served deep-fried and fully in tact, neck, head and all.  After lunch we toured the largest garden in the city.  It was about the size of five to six football fields and housed many traditional structures with beautiful flowers and interesting rock sculptures.  I have noticed that China loves trees and flowers.  No matter your location, you are bound to run into green plant life somewhere.

After exploring the large garden, which we later found out housed many of the Emperor’s concubines, we headed to the hotel to clean up and rest before we left to visit the smallest garden in the city.  The smallest garden wasn’t as small as one would imagine.  It is about the size of one football field.  To get to this garden, we had to traverse through a dark alley under makeshift tents and vendors, arriving at two large doors in Chinese writing.  The garden had many traditional houses and smaller ponds with lily pads and flowers.  At each of the houses, we were treated to traditional Chinese performances.  

The next day we took a boat trip on the canal that runs through Suzhou and Hangzhou.  The canal started out very large and we moseyed into a smaller canal that barely fit our boat.  At one point, we were actually pinned against the walls to squeeze a smaller boat by.  At the end of the canal, we got off the boat and walked up to an ancient pagoda that was leaning.  I called it the Chinese version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It looked like the same height and lean but with old dirt colored bricks and deterioration.  If you have ever watched the movie Mortal Combat, it looks exactly like the temples and pagodas in the background. 

Our next and last stop was to the silk manufacturer and shopping center, where we were educated on the lifecycle of a silk worm and the process of extracting the silk into threads and weaving.  We were able to witness the de-threading the cocoon into one single strand and test the strength of the silk by stretching the material over an arch.  Later, all of the students spent an hour shopping through the many silk products. After shopping, we returned to the busses and headed back “home” to Hangzhou.


Published: June 06, 2011

We have all just come back from an incredible day at the Beijing People's Supreme Court and the Forbidden City. All 85 of us are literally overwhelmed by the excitement of Beijing, the splendor and beauty  of the Supreme Court which is bedecked in marble throughout, and the majesty of the Forbidden City which transports you to the age of the Ming Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, the Last Emperor, and all of China's long and  rich imperial history. At the Supreme Court we had a private tour by the Vice President of the Court and a lecture by four judges about Chinese legal reform measures (initiatives to increase transparency and fairness, the expansion of mediation, the training of judges, etc). Their speeches were a perfect continuation of our very successful 2011 Rule of Law in China Conference held May 27th in Hangzhou at the law school. After the visit to the Supreme Court we went by foot to Tiananmen Square, and amazingly our guides did not and probably could not mention the protest and atrocities that occurred there in 1989! We then had a fabulous lunch of special Beijing dishes. After lunch we all  walked leisurely through the incredible Forbidden City, the palace of the Emperors, their concubines, their wife and relatives and servants. The palace was built to house 30,000 people. It is as big and beautiful as Versailles in France but much older.  What a day! And tonight we have another succulent dinner followed by a KungFu show. Tomorrow Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, and the next day the Temple of Heaven and visit of a small alley in Beijing called a hutong.

This past week we all had a great time recovering from the excitement of the conference, the trip to Suzhou and its magnificent gardens and silks, and the intellectual excitement of our 5 courses. It is hard to believe that we have only one more week left. Next week the basketball and pingpong tournament:US v. China on Tuesday.

All is going well. We have a spectacular group of adventurous students and wonderful professors. It is all in all a great group!

Wish you were here to explore China and its developing legal system with us.


Professor Susan Tiefenbrun