Japan. Peru. Iceland. Ukraine. Students came from all over the world to join the University of Miami School of Law's International Graduate Law Programs and begin their Master of Laws degree. It began with the IGLP orientation, during which the law school welcomed 65 attorneys from 24 jurisdictions around the world.
"I am always amazed at the shrewdness, multicultural background, and terrific education of the incoming LL.M. generations," said LL.M. alumnus Augusto Aragone, Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Latin America at Ingram Micro – which describes itself as the world's largest Internet technology distributor – after meeting this year's LL.M. class. "It is a testament to the relevance of the program as well as the increasingly competitiveness of the legal marketplace."
Juliana Pavageau, a law graduate from Brazil, described orientation as an "amazing" process in which students were able to meet and get to know classmates from other countries. "I enjoyed all of the activities that involved speaking to the person next to you and the 'geography' lessons, which helped place my new colleagues on the globe," she said.
"It is important for international students to get to know each other and feel as they have a home and place here within Miami Law," said Jessica Carvalho Morris, Director of the International Graduate Law Programs. "We always strive to provide individual attention to our students and help them in adapting to Miami and the law school through orientation by providing them the opportunity to meet professors, alumni and each other, as well as providing individual course advising based on the students' background and areas of interest."
On the first day of orientation, students met members of the faculty at a luncheon hosted by the IGLP Office. Students were able to approach their future professors, learn about course offerings, and meet administrators. Viviana Harrington, a law graduate from Colombia, said she was surprised to see so many professors taking the time to attend the faculty luncheon. "While the quantity made a huge impression on me, my favorite part was that they all seemed genuinely interested in my story," Harrington said. "They all had a certain connection with either my professional or personal background which, of course, only promises lasting relationships."
Throughout the first week, students were also introduced to LL.M. alumni and members of key offices, from Financial Aid to Parking to Career Development. "Orientation was an excellent opportunity to answer each of the concerns we had when we arrived at the University of Miami," said Luis Becerra, from Venezuela. "Particularly I felt like we have received a concentrated pill with all the information we need to feel comfortable, not only at law school but at the University of Miami."
Students were also helped with arranging driver's license appointments, obtaining Cane ID's and adapting to being in the United States. "Miami is a diverse, vibrant city, which makes it easy both to adjust and enjoy it," said Maria Del Mal Oliva Galvan, a law graduate from Spain. "The efforts made by the LL.M. director and staff during the orientation course to get together and create bonds among the students are endless and extremely useful towards integration."
The second week of orientation continued with a required course, Introduction to U.S. Law. All foreign-trained graduates are enrolled in the course during their first semester. The course provides international lawyers with the foundation of U.S. law and helps students transition from a foreign legal system to the U.S. legal system. Students visited the federal courthouse in downtown Miami, where they had the opportunity to observe two hearings – a change in plea and a sentencing – as well as a trial. The students met federal judges Paul C. Huck, Cecilia Altonaga, Marcia Cooke, Robert Scola and Ursula Ungaro. Judges Huck and Altonaga took time to answer the visiting lawyers' questions about the proceedings, constitutional law and criminal procedure. The students began their second required course when they were handed their first Legal Communication and Research assignment and had their first class with LComm Professors Terri Doud and Rafael Paz.
It was not all hard work during orientation. Students enjoyed the Mentor-Mentee Cocktail reception with IGLP alumni, a Cuban Night party, and an LL.M. reception with other entering LL.M. students at the law school. Students were also officially welcomed to Coral Gables by its mayor, Jim Cason, at an event hosted by IGLP and the Miami Council for International Visitors. Mayor Cason told the crowd that Coral Gables is home to citizens from more than 100 countries and that, having been a diplomat for many years, it was a pleasure for him to see the international attorneys at Miami Law.
During an intense two weeks, full of fun and hard work, the foreign students got a taste of what is to come. Importantly, however, as Ghufran Alqahtani from Saudi Arabia observed, "I never felt that I am a stranger."
"Miami is a multicultural city which provides you a wonderful experience," Alqahtani said. "Actually it is the best place to live."