This document explains what you can expect from the Law School in terms of your year abroad and preparation for it, and also what we expect of you.
The School of Languages, Literatures and Performing Arts provides much assistance for you in terms of preparation. In particular:
• The French Studies and Spanish Studies departments provide very good handbooks on residence abroad, dealing especially with the social, administrative, acclimatising, etc. aspects. These are written by Nigel Harkness and Gabriel Sanchez Espinosa.
• Also the School organises orientation sessions during your second year, concerning living abroad.
• The Language Departments each run a mini-module on legal language, conducted in the target language.
In respect of both of these resources you should remember that they are also designed for non-Law students. Some of their comments may be inapplicable to you.
The International Office also provides you with valuable information at its website.
There are a number of important stages during your second year.
Sometime during the year, the Law School will arrange a meeting (for each of the language groups) between second year and final year L&L students.
After this you should start to consider which university you wish to visit. You should visit their web pages and read their on-line booklets.
You should contact the International Office if you wish to consult compilations of questionnaires that previous students have returned dealing with their experiences at the different universities.
Sometime during your second year, the Law School will ask you to list the universities you would like to visit (in order of preference). Before the Easter Vacation, the Advisor of Studies will tell you where you will be going. In the event of too much demand for one university, selection will be made on academic merit, i.e. the average obtained in first year.
At this point the Law School will write to the Host University with your address and ask them to send you their booklets and forms, information about accommodation and so on. Please be warned that universities vary according to when they will send you the information, and how much they will send you! Some will write to you by May, with detailed information, others may leave it until late summer, and it has even been known for some universities to give you the information when you arrive!
Your Advisor of Studies will email you the relevant forms to complete and sign.
Please see: http://www.qub.ac.uk/erasmus/ for important reminders!
University fees are waived during your year abroad (you do not pay either QUB or your Host University any registration fee).
The European Community will pay you a small grant intended to cover your transport costs. This will be sent to you by the International Office at two points during your year abroad.
You should also contact your grant authority (if applicable) to see if they provide a top-up grant for students who are going abroad as a compulsory part of their degree.
When to go?
Consult the web pages and information booklets of your host university to see when they advise you to go. Semester dates vary from university to university, so check these carefully.
If the host university runs orientation courses or intensive language courses, you should seriously consider attending those.
N.B. Some of our partner institutions arrange accommodation for you; some will not. If your host university does not arrange accommodation then you will have to do this yourself.
You should NOT leave this until the last minute. You are advised to go out a few weeks early, or even to go a few months before at the start of the summer to arrange accommodation. Make sure to consult with students who were at the university the previous year.
Your host university should normally indicate when you should arrive and whom you should contact upon arrival (ERASMUS/SOCRATES office). They should start providing you with information concerning registration, courses etc. During your year abroad, you should try to resolve any issues that crop up with the staff of your host university. If however you cannot, then, as a last resort, please contact your Advisor of Studies at QUB.
As soon as you have an address in your host city, email your Advisor of Studies with your contact details (email, telephone, postal address). This is vitally important. You cannot expect us to reach you if you do not tell us your address!
As a minimum make sure we have an email address that you will be checking regularly during your time abroad.
Work during the year abroad
• You must do 40 ECTS credits worth of courses.
• You must do a learning diary for the Law School.
• Your QUB transcript will include pass/fail in front of the list of modules taken in the host university.
• You must satisfy requirements set by the School of Languages.
When you look at the courses listed as available at the host university, you will note that they are usually assigned a number of ECTS credits. During your year abroad you should study approximately 40 ECTS credits worth of courses. This is equivalent to a workload 2/3 of the local students. (See explanation of the ECTS system)
Aside from that, you have a wide discretion as to which courses to study.
You should make your choice in consultation with the host university's advisor. The advisor will usually indicate which courses are suitable and which are not.
It is extremely difficult to say in the abstract what sort of course to study, as student experience will differ enormously depending on the student - as you know from your studies in Belfast.
Often students suggest that you take subjects like Criminal Law or Constitutional Law or Civil Law because you will have studied the NI equivalent already. While some students recommend taking first year subjects only, some of the more interesting subjects are third year ones. This is why it is important to listen to the advice of the Host University's advisor.
If you have any difficulties about the number of courses, or the type of courses, please contact your Advisor of Studies as soon as possible.
Once you have settled on the courses you will be studying, you must fill out a learning agreement form and send it to the International Office. Agreement forms are available from the International Office, and you should make sure to take one before you go abroad.
As well as studying for these courses, the Law School will ask you to do a learning diary while abroad.
Please consult with the Language departments as to the work they expect of you during your year abroad.
The Careers Office and Law School, will try to organise a session on careers advice before you go abroad.
Please note that if you wish to apply for training contracts with larger corporate and commercial law firms in England and Wales, then the closing dates for training contract applications are normally around 31 July of the pre-final year.
During your year abroad, there are various ways to improve your future career prospects. For instance, find out if a large UK law firm has a local office in the country where you are studying, and ask them if you can visit their offices!
Academic Culture Shock
You will discover when you go abroad that teaching and assessment methods vary significantly from university to university (so the following comments are very general, and do not apply with equal force to every partner institution). And they differ very significantly from teaching and assessment procedures at Queen's.
Most of our partners are much larger than we are. Many have lectures with the best part of a thousand students in them! This stems from a commitment to allowing as many people as possible to attend university. It does have other consequences though, besides large lectures. At some universities, seminars/tutorials may not exist at all, or where they do exist will take a very different format from that you are used to at Queen's.
Also as a consequence, students are not used to the same relatively familiar, informal relationship which exists between staff and students in our Law School.
The large numbers also means that the administrative facilities in some partners tend to be under strain and consequently may appear stretched, or excessively flexible and relaxed, or even chaotic. Others (with fewer students) will no doubt appear more efficient. Despite this difference in experience, you should not panic! The vast majority of our students have gotten on very well at their different institutions.
Teaching often involves more contact hours per week than you are used to at Queen's, though in principle less private study time. However as the system will be largely alien to you, you should expect to put in more study time than local students.
It is also common for courses to be taught in lectures lasting three hours. At some universities these may start at 08.00!
Again, some universities may have particular expectations as to how you go about your work. French universities for instance tend to have a very strict idea as to what constitutes an acceptable essay plan. Bell, John, Sophie Boyron and Simon Whittaker Principles of French Law (Oxford: OUP, 1998) has a section on this at the end of the book.
You will usually be left to get on with your own business, and not be subject to the level of monitoring experienced at Queen's. This is both a good and a bad thing. It puts the emphasis very much on you to make sure that you prepare well for the examinations.
The principle of ERASMUS is that examinations are entirely within the control of the host university, and should be identical to those experienced by local students.
In practice most universities make some sort of allowance, at least to the extent of not marking students down for poor use of language. It is common (though NOT universal) to allow students the option of either writing coursework, or sitting an oral examination rather than sitting a written examination.
It is quite possible that the assessment method may vary from module to module. Again your Erasmus advisor should give you some indication as to the form of assessment, but you should be prepared to talk with each individual lecturer if necessary.
Return from the year abroad
When you return from the Year Abroad you will be asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire. We use these questionnaires for two purposes: to assess the desirability of continuing with the institution in question, and to provide better information to the students in subsequent years who will be going abroad.
As these are both important goals, we will require you to fill out this questionnaire.
You are expected to comply with the rules of the host university. Please remember that you are an ambassador for your university while abroad!
Try not to spend all your time with Anglophone students - you can do that in Belfast!
A year abroad is a wonderful opportunity to explore other cultures, to travel, to develop your sense of independence and self-confidence. Enjoy it!
Have I read this page carefully?
Did I look at the web sites of our partner institutions?
Did I read the IO advice page?
Did I return the form for choice of university?
Did I read the LLA residence abroad booklet?
Did I attend the LLA living abroad seminars?
Did I participate in the Legal Language filiere?
Have I filled out the grant application forms for the IO and returned it to my advisor?
Do I need to arrange accommodation myself?
SUMMER BEFORE GOING ABROAD
Do I understand the assessment requirements for the year abroad?
When does the host university expect me to arrive? When is registration? Is there an orientation session and when is it? When do they start teaching?
Did I fill out all the forms the host university sent me (especially accommodation)?
Do I have all the documents I need for going abroad (passport, E111, birth certificate)?
YEAR THREE: ARRIVAL
Have I let QUB know my address and email?
Have I told my Advisor the subjects I will be studying?
Have I filled out my learning agreement and returned it to the IO?
Do I check my email regularly?
How can I pursue my career most effectively while abroad?
Have I satisfied the (distinct!) assessment requirements for the Law School and the Languages School?
Have I handed in my learning diary to the undergraduate office?
Have I returned my Law School Questionnaire?