Student combines language and the law in Beijing

As a dual-degree student working on a J.D. and an M.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures, I am inevitably asked where I hope these two degrees will lead me. It’s a fair question and the best answer I have is, hopefully anywhere.

I spent this past summer in Beijing doing an intensive Chinese language program. To what extent does a summer studying Chinese in Beijing bear on my legal studies? More than you might think. In an increasingly globalized world, language skills are becoming especially important, and as multicultural interactions increase, so too does the value of language skills. This summer I improved my Chinese language skills, but many memories and lessons I brought back are invaluable souvenirs. Learning is a continual process. I have been advised time and again that the practice of law requires practice. It is a valuable kernel of truth applicable to any study one undertakes. Regardless of how many hours, months or years I have spent studying, there will always be new developments. Statutes and case law change and evolve, and so do the ways in which people, particularly young people, communicate and use language to express themselves. Complacency is not just standing still; it is taking a step backwards. Each day is an opportunity to build upon yesterday’s progress.

I learned the importance of encountering the uncomfortable. There were plenty of moments where I felt uncomfortable and out of place in China. The real work has not been forgetting those uncomfortable moments. The real work has been learning to embrace those moments as experiences that, if nothing else, have built character and molded me into a person that is able to find comfort in the uncomfortable. From the stories experienced lawyers have kindly passed on, it sounds as though being a lawyer often involves helping clients through some of the most uncomfortable moments in life. Knowing how to guide yourself through those moments can go a long way in counseling others to do the same.

I learned to never underestimate the healing power of a good meal. The intensive language program I enrolled in put the tense in intense. I spent five hours a day in classes, had a quiz every single day, a test every single week, and a weekly oral presentation in Chinese. There were many days when it felt impossible to keep up that pace. Those were the days I treated myself to a good meal. A good meal can provide a moment of respite and gratitude when you need a reminder about what’s important in life. In my case the reminder was that each day’s hard work was not a means to an end, but an end in itself. Hopefully this is the lesson I’ll keep in mind as I continue to tackle my studies and my next challenge, embarking on my career. There will undoubtedly be challenges, including many that are impossible to predict. My experiences in law school and around the world might not always provide the answers, but they have provided me the tools to find those answers on my own.

Kasey Considine is a third-year law student from Boston and a KU Law Student Ambassador.