Experiencing the Comillas Exchange Programme Virtually
Between January and May 2021, four fourth-year students from Strathmore Law School (SLS) – Michael Butera, Kiai Gachanja, Winnie Nakkazi Kiberu, and Sifuna Nabwile – participated in the first exchange programme between SLS and Universidad Pontificia Comillas, in Madrid, Spain. Due to COVID-19, the exchange programme was fully virtual; the students attended all lectures online and completed assignments and examinations through the online student portal, Moodle. Despite this, the four did not feel that they lacked anything academically, since Moodle and the virtual learning environment were user friendly.
Foreign legal regime
Being students from a common law legal system, the SLS team appreciated the opportunity Comillas gave them to learn modules from a different perspective, within a civil law legal system. Initially, it was a challenge acclimatising to the foreign legal regime; they had to accustom themselves to the importance of the supranational nature of the European Union (EU) and the impacts of its actions. This greatly influenced and contextualised many of the legal analyses in their classes. Further, many of their peers had the advantage of being familiar with the structural operation, history, and laws of the EU, which the SLS students needed time to catch up with. Nevertheless, their lecturers were understanding, and open to questions and divergent views in discussions.
The students seized the opportunity to gain new experience and exposure to international and European law modules: Private International Law, European Union Law, Immigration and Asylum Law, EU External Relations Law, International Taxation Law, and A2 Spanish for exchange students. The students commended the creative and highly interactive modes of teaching and assessment. They highlighted activities such as the mock EU Parliament simulation, in Prof. Jose Enrique Conde Belmonte’s EU Law class, and the diverse group case studies on the various immigration policies from regions around the world, in Prof. Alfredo Dos Santos Soares’ Immigration Law unit.
Outside class, the SLS students utilised various communication platforms, like Teams and WhatsApp, to interact with their lecturers, tutors, and peers, who came from several countries within and outside Europe. This allowed them to glimpse varied aspects of the world from different viewpoints, such as Trade Law compared from Western and African perspectives, and Eurovision, a celebrated European singing competition.
For Sifuna, the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was that it provided her with cost-efficient access to an opportunity that would otherwise be locked due to financial constraints. She commended SLS and Comillas for offering a beneficial virtual semester that was not financially burdensome.
Butera, Kiai, Winnie and Sifuna are grateful to SLS and Comillas for the opportunity they gave them to experience Law from a different social and geographic standpoint. It gave them an appreciation for the civil law system, a better understanding of the workings of the European Union, and opened up their mind to the diverse practise and education of Law in the world. Our heartfelt gratitude to Alan Mukuki and Adam Dubin for organising and facilitating this impactful exchange programme: We highly encourage Strathmore students to participate in such opportunities. In the near future, we hope to get another opportunity to visit Madrid and experience Spanish life and culture in person.
This article was written by Winnie Kiberu, Kiai Gachanja and Cynthia Sifuna.
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