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He Said – She Said: Stay in Edmonton or Go On Exchange?

He Said: Stay in Edmonton
Garrett Lee (3L)

There are a plethora of decisions that law students must face throughout the course of their career. Of particular importance is how one wants to spend his/her final year at law school. Two distinct options have emerged: option one, go on an exchange and have the opportunity to study law in a completely new environment; or option two, stay at the university you have made your home and live out one final glorious year.

While one cannot deny the obvious lure of studying abroad for your final year of law school, I assure you that the novelty will wear off quickly. Meeting weird creepy foreign people, going to exotic places where no one can understand a word you are saying, eating food that that may not be legal in Canada, and all the while worrying that you will be the victim in some weirdoes real life “Taken” remake (if you haven’t seen this Liam Neeson movie I suggest you do) . No thanks, I’ll pass.

Realistically, not only is going on exchange fiscally irresponsible, but it is a metaphorical slap in the face to those you left behind. For three years you shed tears, blood, and sweat with those around you. The friends you meet in law school become your second family. Just when the light at the end of the tunnel is bright enough to see, what do you do?… You bail! Although you may spend copious amounts of time updating your Facebook status needlessly informing everyone where you will be traveling next, all of us back home know this is really just a desperate cry for help to be saved from the pit of loneliness you have shamelessly decided to seclude yourself to.

I will use Shanlee V.V as an example…..wait that is far too obvious; rather let us call her S. Von Vegesack. Once a proud member of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law and top of the social food chain, she recently decided to go on exchange in her final year of law school. I cannot think of anything more selfish! We at the U of A pride ourselves on being a team, and teammates don’t up and leave in the final game of the season to gallivant around Europe. But friends, is this really a surprise? I mean after all Von Vegesack is German for “not a team player.” It’s true, look it up.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to be a social pariah when you return, and have everyone forget your very existence then by all means go on exchange. But before you decide to make the worst decision of your life please think of everything you will be leaving behind. First Friday Back, Avenue Pizza, El Hacko, Laws a Beach, Halloween, Carbolic, Ski Trip, Law Show and the End of Exams Party are only small tastes of what has made our time at the U of A so special. While you will only be gone for one semester, that is one less semester you will get to spend with the people you have grown to love. Clearly the likes of Ms. Von Vegesack missed this point. Regardless, while she is away finding herself or doing whatever it is people do in Europe, we will be holding it down like we at the U of A know how. 3L forever.

She Said: Go On Exchange
Shanlee von Vegesack (3L)

I was asked to write an article about why U of A Law students should go on exchange. I thought that the answer was quite obvious, but I was wrong. The number of law students on exchange from the U of A is surprisingly low. Compared to other schools like U of C and UWO who have at least thirty students on exchange this semester, I think our number is closer to five. So while Edmonton winters are pretty fun, especially with the NHL lock-out, I will try and sway some of you 1st and 2nd years to think seriously about going on an exchange and leave Edmonton behind for a semester. I’m currently on exchange at the University of Copenhagen and so far, it has been amazing.

As I’m writing this, I’m in Istanbul. I came here for a four-day weekend with some friends from home and one who is studying in Europe. I have been to five countries so far on exchange (four that I hadn’t been to before) and will likely have traveled to ten countries by the end of the semester. I have to take three classes pass/fail so my schedule is pretty “stress-free”. It’s cheaper to buy beer than pop or water. I get to ride my bike everywhere I go in the city. Stressful moments include: having to deal with various currencies and exchange rates, trying to fit more trips in than weekends I have free, and rush hour on a bicycle. It almost feels like an exchange is a secret that so many people don’t know about. So the secret is out, apply to go on an exchange (a.k.a. law school sabbatical) and make it happen.

In all seriousness, I think that going on an exchange is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (but twice-in-a-lifetime if you did one in undergrad as well). You are living in a new city for only four months so the time flies by and you know to make the most of each day. It’s like a four-month vacation. And then you get to take vacations from your vacation – that’s hard to beat. While moving to a new city can be challenging, with exchange, the school typically has everything set up for you and makes the process as easy as possible. You meet so many friends from all over the world who will remain your friends and valuable contacts for a long time. While some may say that the classes you take on exchange won’t be useful in your career (although I bet you’re not going to rely much on what you learned in Jurisprudence any time soon), you learn about the world, different cultures, and about yourself. The experience is priceless – you won’t regret it. And at the end of the day, I still get to come back and live it up in Edmonton for one last semester!