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Unexpected lessons from my law internship in Rome

I’ve mentioned my internship in past posts, but as it comes to an end, I wanted to gather my thoughts on what I’ve learned from it…and recount another pleasant surprise for my law school plans along the way.

I was really hesitant about starting my internship for two reasons: I had no experience with international or immigration law, and I had never worked for a law firm before, let alone an Italian law firm. I had no clue what to expect when I first met my supervisor, Avvocato (advocate, a title for lawyers in Italian) Lodi, both in terms of etiquette and what I would be doing. 

But our first virtual meeting went very well, and he was very clear with what I would be doing. He did say most of the work would be done from home due to COVID-19 impacting the function of the office, but to my pleasant surprise, our first meeting after I arrived in Italy was in-person. We got coffee, and then went up to the office, where I got to meet two of the clients!

Both of them were migrants from different countries in Africa—one from Sudan, one from Kenya. Their situations in Rome were also different. While one had learned to speak the language well and had a job, the other was struggling to settle down but still wanted to stay in Rome. Both of them have been denied permission to stay in Italy long-term, so put simply, my first assignment was to do some research on the situations in their countries to convince Italian authorities that the conditions warranted them some leniency.

A packed boat on the Mediterranean Sea with a ship in the background.
A group of migrants moving towards Italy on the Mediterranean Sea. Source:

I think what first made me really interested, despite not previously having any experience with immigration law, was being able to hear the clients’ stories about why they came here and how they’re working to stay. Even just coming to Rome for six weeks I experienced a good bit of culture shock, and that was with all of Temple’s guidance and support. I couldn’t imagine moving to another continent with a language I didn’t speak and building a life there.

I compiled sources for Avv. Lodi to look at for conditions in both Sudan and Kenya, and summarized all of them. He told me that I didn’t have to go into too much detail, but I was already pretty invested in the cases by then, so I did read a few extra articles just for my own personal understanding.

After that, Avv. Lodi allowed me to do some research on a case that had piqued my interest when he brought it up: a case about two American students who had been arrested, tried and convicted for killing a police officer in Italy. I wrote a brief paper about comparisons between the American justice system and the Italian justice system, and after doing more research I realized that the Italian justice system was more. It was a little shocking to see how short their sentences were compared to what they may have gotten in the U.S., especially once I learned that their sentences had even been reduced.

My next assignment is to look into the process of adopting refugees in Italy, as well as a criminal drug case. I’m excited to learn more about Italy’s immigration system and criminal courts!

But aside from that, like I mentioned earlier, there was something else that came up that surprised me: a meet-and-greet with Temple Law students. Professor Caen, the internship program coordinator, emailed some students in the program to let us know that some students from Temple’s law school, Beasley, were coming to Rome and had agreed to do a meet-and-greet.

A picture of two students, one with their hand raised, sitting at a table.
I had my hand up for almost the entirety of the session!

I was super excited! I’d asked a lot of questions about law school on internet forums and the like, but it was hard to find actual law school students to talk to. The two students that came to speak to us were very honest, hard-working, and approachable; I ended up asking a ton of questions about the curriculum, application process, and scholarships. I had already been considering Temple Law, but being able to talk to the students really confirmed my interest.

More than anything, I was excited by the fact that you could study abroad during law school. I love Rome and I would love to come back, but I’d also like to visit Temple’s Japan campus. Learning that the law school had a semester program there felt something like fate.

I hadn’t expected my career aspirations to advance so much while I was here. I learned more about Temple’s law school and also became interested in a field I previously hadn’t thought about: immigration law. The future seems to be a lot more open than it was before I came here, and I’m considering paths that I probably wouldn’t have if I’d spent my summer at home. Even if I don’t end up going to Beasley or working in immigration law, I’m glad I had these experiences.

Learn how you can get an internship in Rome!

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