A Canadian Law Student in Florence: Lessons from Europe

Monash University’s faculty of law, based in Australia, has a satellite location in Florence, Italy, where law students have the option of spending a semester. This is quite possibly the best idea I’ve ever heard: The Monash Law Prato Program.

A Little Bit of Background

Having done my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, I’m only familiar with schools that opt to place their satellite locations in Scarborough and Mississauga, two regions of the greater Toronto area that aren’t exactly tourist attractions. Not to suggest that either town is without its charm, but they pale in comparison to… I don’t know… a 2000-year-old city that is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance which has been home to some of the greatest artists and thinkers of the world.

As an Osgoode student I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join my Australian counterparts, as well as some from France and the United States, on a Florentine adventure with a touch of legal education whenever we could find the time.

Having heard about the availability of positions only a few hours before the deadline to apply, I had to make an executive decision. I had no means of paying for the trip, no one to go with, nowhere to stay and no idea what to expect. This is what we call making a decision on a whim.

But it turned out to be the right one.

The program entails taking at least one law school course for roughly a month and nothing more, so naturally I expected to learn something about the law. What I learned in Florence was so much more than I ever could have imagined. While I learned plenty about collective labour rights, which was the course I chose, I learned more about myself. Lessons that I trust will get me through the rest of law school with my sanity intact, something that may not have been possible without the experiences of Florence.

The Lessons

Lesson 1: “Laif is nau.” I can’t be positive, but I think that means “Life is now.” That was the lesson I learned from a work of graffiti on a wall nearing my apartment in Florence. Every time I went home, whether it was 6:00pm after class or 6:00am after a night of partying in the streets of Italy, it served as a friendly reminder that we have to live in the moment, do what feels right, and spare ourselves any regret. After wasting a few nights indoors and taking little advantage of my situation, I decided to put myself out there, make some new friends, and it paid off.

Lesson 2: Live well. People in Italy—and probably the rest of Europe—know how to live. They eat well, they walk everywhere, they cherish their food and beverages, they drink in the streets and at all times of the day without fear of being shunned by society, they soak up the sun, they shut down their businesses and take naps in the afternoon, they’re not afraid to prove to the world that they’re in love, and, most importantly, they take their sweet time. All are things that we uptight folk in Canada could benefit from.

Lesson 3: Relax. Some law students, including myself, got where they are in the highly competitive legal education system by thriving off of stress. Personally, I’ve always looked at stress as an impetus to work. Living in the moment and living well are two small steps on the path towards a stress-free legal education. And eventually we all have to learn that, as helpful as it can be at times, for the most part stress is counter-productive.

Don’t Worry, I know it’s Easier Said Than Done

These are all lessons that can aid a certain kind of law student in Canada, particularly my kind of law student. For such students, the receding hairlines, sleepless nights and anxiety attacks don’t serve well enough as reasons to slow down and take it easy because they at least keep us in the library living in fear.

Unfortunately, law students that read this post probably can’t derive the same benefits from my words as those I derived from my experiences in Florence. Relaxing is easier said than done and I recognize that. But in the very least, you can take it as a good reason to seek out the opportunity to find your own epiphanies that can help you in their own ways. Trust me. If you’re ever given such an opportunity, take it.

If some second-year law student came to me with this advice, I would recognize it as valid but reality would keep my hopes down. One can’t simply make a sudden decision and halt the negative impacts of stress. If you’re a stressed out law student, I recommend finding opportunities for finding alternative routes. I clearly found travel beneficial. So maybe the next time you find yourself blogging about a bad day in the library, you should consider hitting up a travel agency instead.

All of these lessons, combined, amount to one thing: There’s no more room in my life for stress. This, coupled with the simple realization that the law doesn’t have to be stressful, leads to the conclusion that the law is for people that love it. People like me. And hopefully people like you. It’s an intriguing thing. It governs literally everything in modern life. And those of us who are fortunate enough to be as close to it as we are ought to appreciate that.

So stop whining and embrace it. You’re luckier than you think you are.

About the Author

Thomas Wisdom
Second-year law student at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (Toronto, Canada).

5 Comments on "A Canadian Law Student in Florence: Lessons from Europe"

  1. Awesome post, Thomas.

  2. It’s good to see that some people manage to get it before it’s too late.

    Something to remember: Everything career-related in law school seems much more urgent than it usually is. You have more time than you think, and more options than are revealed to you.

  3. Bravo. An excellent post. In boca al lupo!

  4. Thomas Tran | August 20, 2008 at 1:56 am |

    Brilliant, Mr. Wisdom.

  5. Great post, Tom.

    Also: I miss the Arno. :(

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