Opportunity in Community

Student finds community outside of his hometown

Will Orlowski, 1L

By the end of my first semester, I was feeling ready for a break, and in this, I doubt I was alone. Immediately following my last exam, I picked up my girlfriend and drove directly to the airport. After spending three months at a study carrel it was essential that I get out of the city and get my Thoreau on. I proceeded to spend the next two weeks in three different time zones, seizing the opportunity I had to travel with my loved ones and nourish my mental health.

Traveling is essential to our understanding of the world and our place within it. I am far from the first to recommend spending vacation time exposing oneself to other cultures and perspectives. However, an underappreciated benefit of exploring new communities is the potential to reinforce appreciation for one’s own. I ate like a king for two weeks and spent some wonderful and invigorating time outside, but I also slept in beds not my own for an extended period, to say nothing of how dearly I missed my cats. Everywhere I went I met kind and interesting people, but I was consistently reminded of the kind and interesting people I am fortunate to spend time with here in Lawrence. When I returned home, I was struck by an overwhelming gratitude for the places and people that make up the local community at large and my own personal experience within it.

It is this concept of community I want to focus on. We as law students have a phenomenal opportunity we are unlikely to experience again. Green Hall is home to a profound diversity of students and faculty. We are surrounded by hundreds of undeniably brilliant and capable folks, but beyond our capacity for academic success there is little we have universally in common. I personally get to learn from folks much younger and older than myself. There are people from all over the country, representing countless different intersections of identities and values.

This dovetails incredibly with the nature of our studies. Just as an example, the majority of first-year students are currently studying criminal law, Constitutional law and property. These doctrinal bodies critically assess the very serious flaws within our society, from legal, structural and cultural standpoints, among others. To be in the position to analyze the origins and historical context of our laws and country alongside this extraordinary variety of perspectives and experiences is a chance we should not only strive to take full advantage of but relish for what it is during the short time we are here.

A dear friend and classmate shared several moving observations with me just days prior to writing this. He discussed the inherent anxiety of meeting so many new people at once in a setting that also necessarily demands accountability and consequences. There are too many people to be close with everyone, but too few to run from mistakes or avoid anyone. Classes can be too big to feel intimate, but too small to blend in. And yet despite this backdrop of simmering anxiety and unease, he and I genuinely enjoy law school. I submit it is this intersection between content and community we resonate with.

These three years are undeniably stressful and will continue to pose challenges and frustrations. Nevertheless, they provide us an opportunity for community that is invaluable. In my many years, I have gained an abiding love for the city of Lawrence. I treasure the businesses I frequent, the people I know all over town and the University we share. Travel is essential, and horizons exist to broadened, but never forget that we have, for a brief moment, the chance to participate in a beautiful thing. We will take what we learn here and use it to shape the law of our future communities, and in doing so memorialize the one we find ourselves in currently. I hope that you can be as glad for that prospect as I am.

– Will Orlowski is a 1L KU Law Student Ambassador from Lawrence, Kansas