Nichole at Oxford

Nichole, a second-year evening law student at Dedman School of Law, participated in Summer 2009 in the School’s Oxford Summer Program, in association with University College.

High Table

One of the traditions here at Oxford is that once a week we all come together for a formal dinner called High Table. It’s one of my favorite traditions and best experiences here at Oxford. Everyone gets dressed up. It’s wonderful to see all the gentlemen in their suits and all the girls in their nice cocktail attire.

The evening starts out with cocktails and conversation on the lawn. When there is rain, and over here that tends to happen quite often, we move our cocktail time inside to a large round room with windows that look out over University College. The cocktail time is great because it allows all 36 of us to mingle freely, moving from group to group, discussing classes, tutorials, our weekend travels and other topics of interest.

After about half an hour of cocktails, we move into the main dinning hall where the staff of University has formally set up two long tables. High Table starts with the official University College prayer. Each week a student is chosen to recite the prayer in Latin as the rest of the class stands politely behind their chairs and repeats the necessary responses. We then all sit and the meal begins.

High Table consists of three tasty courses, accompanied by wine pairings for each course. Throughout the meal, we continue to mingle among ourselves and with Professor Epstein and Professor Winship. The best conversations with the professors occur at High Table. Outside the classroom, Professor Epstein and Professor Winship speak freely with us. While the level of respect that the students hold for them is still present, it is easy to converse with them about almost anything – the history of their legal careers, their family life, current events or our Oxford experience so far.

At every meal, there is a guest speaker who gives us a brief presentation. The topic of our first High Table was International Arbitration, and among all of the legal advice given, the most important lesson is that proficiency in languages is essential. By being multilingual, you place yourself at a huge advantage over other competition when trying to get hired in an international firm.

At the end, we all progress, along with the professors, down to the University Pub, where we spend more time visiting with each other. All in all, Tuesday evening’s High Table is my favorite night of the week. This weekend, a group of us is going to Sicily, and I’m sure that adventures will ensue. More on that next time.

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Trip to Dublin, Ireland

One of the first things that you learn when traveling abroad in our current times, is that the exchange rate of the American dollar is less than fantastic. Taking this fact into account, and realizing that we are all traveling on a budget, sometimes leads us to make interesting travel arrangements. Under these circumstances, this past weekend a group of six of my friends and I decided to travel to Dublin. Our mode of transportation … a 12-hour combination of trains and a ferry over to the Emerald Isle.

After leaving Oxford at 6 p.m., we arrived in Ireland the next day at 6 a.m. The city wasn’t awake yet, and walking along the streets of Dublin that early was amazing. We wandered along Temple Bar, Dublin’s hopping pub scene was only a street of storefronts by morning. After killing time by wandering around, taking photographs and waiting for the rest of the city to wake up, we decided to take a bus tour to the southern countryside.

The bus first took us along the coast of Dublin, and we were allowed to get off the bus and go down to the shore. The view was the epitome of what I imagined Ireland would be – the sea, with the greenest rolling hills behind it, stretching all the way to the horizon. The bus took us south to just outside Brey to Powerscourt House & Gardens. These gardens stretch over several acres and have been there since the 17th century. In exploring the gardens you find fountains, a tower that gives you a view of the whole area, the most beautiful Japanese gardens and thousands of flowers.

At the conclusion of our tour, we set off in search of our hotel. And this wasn’t just any hotel, it was a castle…no joke! We spent the night in Clontarf Castle. This amazing castle that was built in 1034, was home to the monastic order of the Knights Templar in the 1300s, sought after by Henry VII in the 1500s, passed through generations of an Irish family until the 1950s, and was finally opened as a four star hotel in 1998.

The next day we said goodbye to our castle and set out to see the really important sights in Dublin…the Guinness Factory and the Jameson Irish Whisky Distillery. Both tours where very informative, and I highly suggest them if you ever come to Dublin. They leave you with a true appreciation for both spirits when placing your order at the next pub.

We concluded our last night in Ireland by journeying to Temple Bar. It was an entirely different street at night than the peaceful stretch of shops we had seen early the previous morning. We found a pub with live traditional Irish music, and a nice Irish man taught me the art of Irish dance. I don’t think I actually got it down, but it was fun trying it out.

We ended our stay in Ireland the next day after more sightseeing, and began our long trip back to Oxford. As the ferry pulled away from the shore, I looked back over the sea at the beautiful green rolling hills of Ireland with a new appreciation for Ireland’s culture and history.

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Legal London tour

One of the best things about studying law at Oxford is the fact that you are surrounded by so much legal history. Being in the heart of where the United States Common Law system comes from is amazing. We took a break from our studies on Tuesday to take a group trip into London to see exactly where the heart of the British legal system began.

Our tour began at Temple Street, where for centuries London’s lawyers have studied, practiced and lived. The legal community sprang up here at the midpoint of the Thames River because it was easy for those seeking legal advice to stop by on their way to the city’s courts, which were located at Parliament, just up the river from Temple Street.

Here, in the center of this legal community among great halls and law offices, is the Knights Templar Church. This is the same church that is shown in The Da Vinci Code. The Knights Templar have a rich history linked to the British legal system. With relics that had been placed under the church hundreds of years before of past knights, the church was phenomenal.

The tour concluded with a walk from Temple Street to the Royal Courts of Justice, where we were allowed to sit in on an actual court hearing. It amazes me how much the legal community is still grounded in the culture and traditions of the past. English attorneys are divided into two categories of practice: the Solicitors and the Barristers.

A client in the English court system will go to the Solicitor to describe their legal problem, and then the Solicitor contacts the appropriate Barrister who will eventually argue the case before the courts. The court proceeding was very formal with the Barristers and Judges dressed in flowing black robes and white wigs.

The trip to London was fantastic and we returned to Oxford with a better understanding of the English Legal system. A group of us are going to travel to Dublin this weekend, and I’ll report on that next time.

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The Dos and Don’ts of England

I just finished my first year in the Dedman School of Law evening program. I am reporting from Oxford, England, where I am attending the SMU study abroad program. I am studying under Professor Peter Winship, taking a Comparative Law: International Sales course and a tutorial over Human Rights. (Nichole’s blog is also posted on the Law School site.)

Other entries will tell more about class life and day-to-day stuff here at Oxford, but this first entry will be just a quick recap of the trip thus far. I’ve been here for exactly one week, and I believe I have learned some valuable lessons. I’ll start out with some helpful tips for anyone thinking about studying abroad, but hasn’t yet. A list of Dos and Don’ts, if I may!

The below list of Dos and Don’ts span my first week in England.

Do: Start packing way before the day you are supposed to leave.
Don’t: Think you’ll have plenty of time to get everything done before you go just because your flight isn’t until 9:05p.m.
Do: Sleep on the plane.
Don’t: Assume that just because you and your travel buddy booked your flights at the same time, with the same flight number and same departure times that the flight is actually on the same day.
Do: Get a stamp in your passport for every country you visit.
Don’t: Use a taxi at any point. The public transportation over here is efficient, affordable and fast!
Do: Take a cab from the airport to your first destination. Believe me… it is worth the extra money with all of your luggage.
Don’t: Try to do it all in one day. Take your time, enjoy the sights, take lots of pictures.
Do: See everything in London – the British Museum, the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abby, Westminster Cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Changing of the Guard, Notting Hill, the Globe Theatre, Big Ben, London Bridge, the Tower of London, Parliament, the London Eye, etc., etc., etc.
Don’t: Think you are going to find food at restaurants past about 9 p.m.; things shut down early.
Do: Try a hotdog from the vendor outside the British Museum. It’s an awesome lunch and only 2.5 pounds! May be the best lunch I had so far.
Don’t: Get there right on time for the Changing of the Guard, it happens every day at 11:30 a.m., but if you get there on time, you’re actually late, there will be TONS of people and you won’t be able to see anything. Be safe, get there early,and just walk around and take pics while you wait.
Do: Go to Westminster Abbey on Sunday and attend a service.
Don’t: Take the bus to the Victoria Bus Station if your hotel is in East London. I may have fibbed earlier – a taxi would have been appropriate here!
Don’t: Be late to the first day of class because you failed to check that your clock was set to the correct time!
Do: Remember that the tube/train stops running at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights, and long bus rides with slightly intoxicated riders = no fun.
Don’t: Expect to be able to take pictures while inside Westminster Abbey on Sunday; go for the service, and go back for the tourist attraction some other time.
Do: Try to make the guards laugh and take pics. They probably don’t like it, but hey, you’re an American… they may not like you anyway!

I hope you enjoy it, and will give more frequent updates now that I have Internet. Signing off from the UK!

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