Herstmonceux Castle: Studying Global Law at the BISC

Every spring, while the blue bells and wisteria sprout into the sun, the Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, UK, welcomes about 50 law students for a two month international law study opportunity. Through Queen's University in Canada, we had the opportunity to learn from legal academics and practitioners from around the world within the setting of a 15th century castle. It was magical.

If you are a law student, and are considering applying for the Global Laws program, we hope the following information will help with your choice, as well as underscore our personal advice: Do it.

The Application

The process is standard, outlined on the website below. The application process, as we have experienced it, was simple. As long as you are in good academic standing, applications are accepted in the order received, so apply early! It's also relevant to note that Queen's and Dalhousie students have priority of enrolment, but the program is open to all Canadian law students. As Dalhousie Law students, we didn't have trouble with our application and acceptance (or coordination of information once we were accepted, for that matter). More logistical information at: http://law.queensu.ca/jd-studies/international-opportunities/global-law-...

The Residence

Flashback to your years as an undergraduate frosh, living in residence. It's the same thing (unless you lived in luxury dorm, then just picture a motel room from your favourite epsiode of CSI). It's fun because you're all in the same boat, but wearing different flip flops to the showers. There are common rooms for socializing, working toilets, kitchenettes, groovy blue carpeted dorm rooms, and all of your newest law school friends in one building. You need nothing more.

The Classes

All of the students in the Global Laws program take a Public International Law course for the first two weeks, followed by an exam. The class then breaks into two different programs; the Public International Law stream (Including Int'l Human Rights, Int'l Humanitarian, and Int'l Criminal Law) and the International Business Law stream (Including Int'l Economic Law, Int'l Commercial Arbitration). Danielle took the PIL stream while Chris took the IBL stream, so if you have specific questions about either stream, you can ask in the comments below, or contact us and we will gladly respond.

In general, we both absolutely loved the content of the courses, the way they were delivered, and our class schedules. The program administrator (Gillian Ready) has taken student feedback from years past and moulded the program so that it is managable, fun, and educational both in, and beyond, the classroom. 

A typical day would be something along the lines of: 930-1230 class, an hour for lunch, 130-430 class. The rest of the evening you have available to (try to) complete your readings for the next day. Given the offerings of extra-curriculars and law-related events at the Castle, the expectations for readings are adjusted so that only the essential readings are usually required in order to follow the lecture for the following day, which is where you do the bulk of your learning. Compared with our first year law at Dalhousie, this is a more relaxed program (but maybe that is due to the good vibes from the British countryside, lulling our stresses away). The Queen's students dubbed the BISC a #LawCamp, and sometimes (around exams) it may have felt like a #LawPrison, but either way, it balances out to a mix of both fun and learning.

The Dining Hall

If you are hungry, it's tough to be happy. I think this is a general principle that we can all agree on. On days when the dining hall was off of their game, the diners were not pleased. Generally, though, the dining experience was highly workable. The catering service managers at the Castle are very much in tune with requests by students and they put forth the effort to improve their services. We were told by others who experienced the food in years past, that there was a substantial increase in the quality of offerings this year. Hopefully this will continue to trend upwards, but play it safe and adjust your expectations accordingly. There's always the Tesco free grocery delivery service that you can use and if you travel on the weekends you get to substitute dining hall for European food of your choice 2/7 days of the week. Not a bad deal.

The Field Trip

A definite advantage in taking the opportunity to study international law at the BISC is the field trip. At the mid-term mark in the program, we travel as a class to various field destinations to learn from professionals and academics in their respective fields. The PIL students go to The Hague to visit United Nations tribunals and courts. Meanwhile, the IBL students go to Paris to visit law firms as well as organizations such as the Organization for Economic and Community Development. Mid-week we reconvene as a group in Geneva, where the PIL students visit the Red Cross, various organs of the UN, and the Permanent Canadian mission (human rights division). The IBL students visit law firms and organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the World IP Organization.

Jam packed with educational and career-related inspiration, the week intersects what we learn in our classes with its application in important and influenial organizations in the international community. It's a long and tiring week, but the insight to the practical world of international law and the inspiration we felt with some of our visits made it a very memorable week of the program.

The Travel Opportunities

It's likely that you were drawn to this opportunity because you imagined all of the travel opportunities that would be available once you were in England. It's true, every weekend we all fled the UK to explore other European cities. It's a great perk of the program. In contrast to our general advice to take advantage of your gateway to Europe, be sure to take a few weekends and stay nearby, exploring the UK itself. Maybe enjoy a weekend in London, the Jurassic Coast, or the Sussex counties so close to the Castle. If you are thinking of foregoing a weekend of travel to buckle down to study for your exams, why not set up shop in Oxford or Cambridge? So many neat options available if you decide to sign up for the BISC.

Some of our weekend adventures included:

The Grounds and The Castle

Above the academic benefits we gained through the program at the Castle, we had out-of-classroom learning opportunities both relevant to our legal careers and otherwise. The BISC is a great option to spend your summer between 1L-2L or 2L-3L, and in our opinions it is well worth the cost. If you have any questions about the BISC Global Laws program please comment below, or get in contact with us - we love to connect and help!

Danielle & Chris