“STL offers a great curriculum, the professors are so nice and the administration has us feeling very pampered. It’s a small and very personal program. For anyone who wants to come here, it’s the best decision.”
The Shenzhen summer heat is coming back around to greet us, but Alejandra isn’t bothered. The LL.M. student hails from Panama City, Panama, a city that prepared her well for the south China climate. She studied law at the Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua before becoming a member of the inaugural class of the School of Transnational Law’s (STL) Master of Laws (LL.M.) program. “I did a lot of research before coming to China and applying to STL,” she tells me. She discovered STL’s profile on the website ‘LLM Guide’ which eventually led her to reach out to the school’s staff after further research. Before long, she found herself at the shores of Shenzhen for a year-long program.
Despite never having been to China before, she took a leap of faith and is glad that she did. “STL did a great job welcoming the new students,” she says as she goes on to talk about the accommodating nature of the administration and how friendly her STL student host has been. But what appeals to her most about everything here is the curriculum of the LL.M. program. “It’s transnational; you learn about China, the EU, and the USA. You can go anywhere and get a job.” She speaks highly of all her professors, both international and Chinese, who make complex concepts simple with relatable examples and cases from all over the world. Alejandra has learned a lot during her time in Shenzhen, from Chinese Legal History to the importance of comma location when drafting bilingual contracts, and even the peculiarities of navigating a country where you don’t speak the native language.
“It was really frustrating at first,” she says of the language barrier and culture shock. She states that initially the lack of independence for small mundane tasks was difficult to deal with—simply calling for the water delivery man was an ordeal. So for her first months, she was very dependent on her student host, a fellow STL student called Jennifer who happily helped Alejandra as she adjusted to student life in China. She stresses the importance of “[coming] to China with an open mind” to keep from any overwhelming culture shock. “I just started asking questions because it’s important to understand why they do the things they do, and most of the time everyone is really happy to answer.” With the combination of an open mind, language and culture immersion, and Mandarin Chinese language courses to supplement her core curriculum, she quickly adopted the ways of international student life in Shenzhen.
She says of the city and school, “It’s really nice; it’s green. And I like our campus; you don’t feel like you’re in a cluster of buildings or skyscrapers. It’s open and you can ride your bike everywhere, nice and quiet.” In her free time, Alejandra enjoys going out with friends for Latin dancing, movies, and even tacos or a burger and fries if she feels the need to eat something western. Like any international student in China, she travels when she gets the chance and has so far been to Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong during the public holidays.
Alejandra will be defending her thesis mid-May and will finish up her 36 credits by the end of June. “I’m really sad,” she says of her time here winding down. “I will just make the most of the time I have. Being at school is great because the only thing you have to do is study.” She will be savoring the remainder of her student life here at PKUSZ, and as for the future, she looks forward to returning to the region later this summer to work for her former law firm’s branch in Hong Kong.
Our interview ended with an enthusiastic final word for prospective LL.M. applicants from Alejandra. “I did a lot of research before coming here. Many of the LL.M. programs in China are based on Chinese law. If you’re a foreigner it makes no sense to do that kind of program; you’re not going to get the bar. STL offers a great curriculum, the professors are so nice and the administration has us feeling very pampered. It’s a small and very personal program. For anyone who wants to come here, it’s the best decision.”
To learn more about the PKU School of Transnational Law and its programs, please see the official website here.
Written by Megan Mancenido