Law school is your life – this is what I was told on my first day of orientation. Throughout my summer and for part of my fall semester, law school was my life, but it would not always be.
In my 1L fall semester, I lost two of my closest family members over the course of five weeks. Halfway across the country from my family and hometown, I was devastated. In October, I went to my Tata’s funeral and felt like I was choosing between my family and law school. I felt guilty for not staying in Texas longer to be with my family to honor his memory, and I felt guilty for not studying more. In November, my Tio unexpectedly died of a heart attack — a week before finals. I was forced to miss his funeral due to finals but was able to spend some time grieving with my family and helping with funeral arrangements.
It was at this moment of great loss I realized that law school is NOT my life. In the midst of the pressures and stressors of law school, I started to see myself as just a law student or a number on a class rank. But I intentionally shifted my mentality to see law school as part of my life that I celebrate and cherish, and I stopped seeing it as my all-consuming identity.
When we start thinking of ourselves as a number instead of as a whole person, we lose sight of what truly matters in life. My late Tata often reminded me, “Always remember, wherever you are, that you are an Almirudis.” I want to pass on this wisdom to every single law student: always remember who you are and don’t let law school change you to be someone you’re not. You can do that by remembering the three Cs: culture, character and challenge.
1. Remember your culture.
As the daughter of an immigrant, I stand on the shoulders of generations of beautiful, hard-working people who fought and sacrificed to make my dream possible. My Abuelita would have never imagined that her granddaughter would be able to study to be an attorney. Never forget that your privilege is another’s dream.
2. Remember your personal character.
With my faith background and Hispanic upbringing, my cultural context and values look different than many of my classmates, but this is a beautiful thing. Professor Levy often says that the law is one big, beautiful tapestry that should be cherished, and the same is true for law school classmates. We are one big, beautiful tapestry of people with differing belief systems that need to be highlighted and cherished. Stay true to yourself and don’t change for anyone.
3. Remember to challenge everything you hear.
Everyone’s law school experience is different. Throughout orientations, meetings and conversations, you will hear a variety of ranging opinions on classes, classmates, professors and law school in general. Choose to see the best in everyone and try to keep an open mind. I was told that law school would be the three most miserable years of my life, and for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
So, make sure that law school is not your life. Choose, every single day, to remember your culture, and stay true to your character and challenge yourself to live your best law school life.
–By Olivia Almirudis Schneider, a 1L from San Antonio, Texas and KU Law Student Ambassador