Amsterdam, Netherlands: Dutch Criminal Justice (Summer)
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Andrew Gavinet

Major: Economics, History
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this program through the Penn State Global Studies office and further exploration into the study abroad website.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

This experience was incredible. It was a lot of fun learning about both the Dutch criminal justice system and the Netherlands. The program was one month long, and I felt that the length and setup of the program really allowed me to immerse myself in the culture. Furthermore, it was amazing getting to spend so much time in beautiful cities and towns like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The time I spent just walking around the cities and meeting people taught me more about the Dutch people than any classroom could. Honestly, it was one of the best months of my life.

The time I spent just walking around the cities and meeting people taught me more about the Dutch people than any classroom could.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Academically speaking, this course gave me a broader understanding of an international criminal justice system which will serve me well in my professional future as a lawyer. In terms of academic credit, this class satisfied some of my general education requirements. That being said, I think what I gained from this class cannot be measured solely by credits of GPA. I think experiences like this help an individual gain a more global perspective, which is something that I personally believe is very important and something that is also heavily stressed in the PSU Schreyer Honors College, of which I am proud to be a part. However, I also think that experiences like this are hard to quantify only in academic terms because the things I learned and experienced in this trip cannot be seen solely on a GPA transcript.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

For my future, I plan to attend law school. In particular I plan to specialize in international law and live abroad after I am done with law school or graduate school. In these respects the study abroad experience was tremendous for me. It really showed me two things. The first is that I can live in and adapt to a country that is vastly different from the United States in both language in culture. Though the first week was intimidating, by the end of the trip I felt very comfortable in Dutch society. I walked around Amsterdam and Rotterdam by myself and even picked up some Dutch along the way. Secondly, the things that I learned about the Dutch criminal system will serve me very well in my future. The similarities and differences I saw between our system and theirs struck me profoundly and gave me insight into things that I know I will re-experience in my future career as a lawyer.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would. My reasoning for doing so though would be beyond any preconceived notions most students have of Amsterdam. I am sure many people go on this program expecting to enjoy things like bars, clubs, and weed stores, and the fact is those things are available to you if you so desire. However I would caution them against going to these things that often. Yes it is fun to go out and party on some nights, but the real beauty of the trip was the experiences I had and people I met during my stay. Even just walking the cities at night was more enjoyable to me than the partying I partook in because the Netherlands is a beautiful country that has a lot to offer. The only issue is that you need to step outside of your comfort zone in order to truly experience those things.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program had a tremendous impact on this trip for me. For one, the program's emphasis on study abroad and exploring the world was what made me think about studying abroad in the first place. It was always something I had thought about as a possibility, but the emphasis placed on it by the Paterno Fellows Program is what pushed me to actually go out and seek a study abroad opportunity. Also I was lucky enough to receive funding through the College of the Liberal Arts, and I would not have been aware of this opportunity if not for the Paterno Fellows Program. Overall I think the Paterno Fellows Program definitely pushed me in the right direction in terms of thinking about going abroad and then helping me pay for it.

For more information on global opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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