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Last October, one of our 3Ls stopped me in the hall and asked, “Do you want to go to New Zealand?” Thoughts of snow-covered mountains, the ocean and hobbits ran through my head. New Zealand had long been on my wish list of places to visit. And though I knew that it would mean a substantial time commitment, I am thrilled to be the faculty advisor to the International Team Project spring break trip. Northwestern’s International Team Project (ITP) program gives students an opportunity to do original, comparative legal research abroad during the law school’s two-week break in March. Early in the fall, small groups of mostly third-year students coalesce and choose a country to study. Each group prepares a presentation containing a brief overview of the country, potential research topics, a preliminary budget and possible side trips. Presentations are made to other interested 2Ls and 3Ls. To move forward, each trip must have a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 25 student participants. The question many outsiders have of course is “Isn’t this really just a boondoggle for students in their last semester of law school to justify taking a spring break in an exotic location and getting credit for it?” Well, there are the side trips and free days but the focus of the course is on the research and the exposure to non-U.S. culture and ways of thinking � the latter is a must for all of us. Other teams are headed to Ethiopia, Tanzania, Brazil, India, Vietnam and Thailand. The original small group of student leaders do the bulk of the work, assisted by the other student members. They do everything from planning the curriculum for the classroom portion to obtaining flights and hotel rooms. The emphasis is on “team.” Students divide up into five or six research groups that form around different topics to do the initial research, set up in-country interviews and produce a final paper and an oral presentation of the results for which each student in the group receives the same grade. At the end of the trip, students also evaluate each other in terms of contribution. Each class is planned by a member of the curriculum committee, including choosing and assigning readings and contacting speakers. So what do I do as faculty advisor beyond reading my Frommers’ Guide and buying sunscreen? I grade. I also facilitate, goad and encourage. It is an interesting and challenging role. As a child of the ’60s, I’m used to the traditional classroom hierarchy between student and teacher. As an advisor in a student-run class, the day-to-day interactions are much more complex and potentially mutually beneficial. My role is essentially “commenter.” I meet with the research groups to discuss progress, provide encouragement when their requests for interviews are not answered; I even suggested an itinerary change early on. In the country, I am not in loco parentis but I am in loco Northwestern. The students are 27 or so years old for the most part and have held meaningful jobs between undergrad and law school. Though they are adults, I worry. Perhaps that’s the biggest challenge. In my youth, we learned not to trust anyone over 30. Now the tables have turned and I find myself having to trust people under 30. Acting as the “teacher” is easy � it’s a defined role in the structure of education. “Advisor” is trickier. I often feel that I am walking a fine line. While I have yet to achieve this goal with any consistency, the key is to give advice and then let the students discover things for themselves. The students have done an amazing job in pulling together lots of information for the classes and in developing their research. They have been challenged by transforming contacts into interviews and by narrowing very broad topics into more manageable ones. Interpersonally, they’ve negotiated the challenges of working as a team. Probably the most difficult task, they have managed to organize a two-week trip for 25 students to a country half a world away including hotels and in-country travel. We have spent the past 10 weeks preparing for the trip. Our classes have covered such topics as New Zealand history, government, the legal system, economics, gender issues, the environment and the Maori. We have watched The Whale Rider and Once Were Warriors. The research topics range from adventure tourism and the implications for tort law to the withdrawal of subsidies for sheep farmers. Our two weeks will include, among other things, a field trip to Sheep World, a visit with the penguins and the albatross, and a train ride through the Southern Alps. As I write, we are on the verge of departing for the other side of the world. For my next column, I will share my experience of the trip itself. At least the street signs will be in English! William A. Chamberlain is assistant dean, Law Career Strategy and Advancement, Northwestern University School of Law.

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