Eight undergraduate students from Kent law School enjoyed “eye-opening” insights into the French legal system when they volunteered to take part in the first international virtual exchange with law students from the Université de Bordeaux.
Initially conceived as a way of enabling law students at the Université de Bordeaux to practice their English language skills, the virtual exchange developed into an opportunity for participants to undertake a comparative study of French and English legal systems, and culture.
After an initial meeting on Zoom, the students from Kent and Bordeaux were put into pairs to meet on a weekly basis. Each week the students were given a different theme for discussion – themes ranged from comparing education systems and their local environment to legal systems and careers. Each pair then chose a legal topic to research. Chosen topics included climate change, privacy and the right to be forgotten, COP 26, and legal aid. The students made creative use of different technologies to record their discussions in logbooks. Kent students took part on an extra-curricular basis but, for students from Bordeaux, their participation was assessed via oral presentations delivered in English.
Reflecting on the experience, Stage 2 English and French Law LLB student Mara Vilcu said: ‘The Bordeaux virtual exchange was a perfect opportunity to learn more about the French legal system, to make a new friend and to have fascinating conversations about two very different legal systems. It is an eye-opening experience to see the way in which a law student in France thinks about the common law and to discover that no matter how different the two legal arrangements are, similarities are also present in some areas. I would recommend this opportunity to anyone who has an interest in discovering a new culture, a new legal system, and a new perspective on law in general.’
Mara’s partner from Bordeaux, Luna Briaud added: ‘This virtual exchange was beneficial for someone who wanted to speak in English and improve it like me. It was a great experience for me because I met a great person. I would recommend it even if you are shy.’
Kent Law School Senior Lecturer Laura Charleton, who created the virtual exchange opportunity with colleagues from Bordeaux, said the experience was beneficial for all of the students involved: ‘I am so pleased that students from both law schools have had the opportunity to connect with each other. In so doing, they have enriched each other’s learning experiences by being exposed to different perspectives as well as different legal systems. Many of the students have gained confidence in using different technologies and all involved have benefitted from developing their communication and organisational skills. They have genuinely made new friends and continue to stay in touch beyond the completion of the exchange.’
Shalom Ndashimye, a Stage 3 Law LLB student at Kent, said: ‘Beyond the academic coursework, I gained a lovely friend, enhanced my personal development, and improved my confidence. Aside from gaining employability points, adding something to your transcript, and improving your CV, the Bordeaux virtual exchange is an insightful and exciting program that I would recommend. From my experience, especially as an international student, I believe I learned and discovered more about the English and French systems and how they were dissimilar whether it came down to the Constitution, the university system, barrister pathways, or even tuition fees. With the task that was assigned to my partner (Alice) and me, I got to develop my researching skills and communication skills when we had to work together.’
Shalom’s partner from Bordeaux, Alice Thomasset, said: ‘I really enjoyed chatting and exchanging with Shalom. I think it’s very important to take every opportunity we can to talk with international students: the international virtual exchange was very rewarding to me, I really liked comparing our lifestyles, talking about all these differences as students from different countries. I’m glad I participated in this module and I can only recommend it to anyone!’
Kent student Kausara Rasaki, who is currently taking a Year in a Language as part of her Iaw degree, agrees. She said: ‘I particularly enjoyed the programme, as it gave me the opportunity to be exposed to a different culture, while also enabling me to have a better understanding of the way the educational and legal system operates in France.’
Laura Charleton hopes to be able to offer the opportunity to undergraduate law students again next academic year. It may be that a similar experience can be facilitated for postgraduate law students too.
Global learning online opportunities at Kent
Learn more about current global learning online opportunities at Kent at: kent.ac.uk/global/education