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timeline

  • What are the differences between an exchange program semester abroad and an independent semester abroad?

    • HLS has developed exchange programs with 10 law schools in nine countries. In doing so, we have built familiarity and experience with these schools and an established process for nominating a designated number of HLS students to study there each semester.
    • In pursuing an independent semester abroad, students select from a wider range of schools and locations, which can allow for a better match between their particular interests and the institution. You generally do need to take more initiative in determining the feasibility of your semester abroad, proposing a program of study, and making arrangements with the foreign school.
    • One option is not intrinsically better than the other; you should look closely at the offerings, methods of teaching, and other aspects of the programs you are considering.
    • See our Semester Abroad: Locations page for more information.
  • How do I determine which foreign law school would be best for me?

    • Your semester abroad should be closely aligned with your academic interests and professional goals. To assess a foreign school’s offerings, consider the depth and range of the courses available to you, and how the courses you might take there would enhance your HLS studies; your comfort level with its methods of teaching; and your proficiency in its usual language of instruction.
    • Other factors to consider might include your experience with or openness to exploring the local culture, and how and whether the foreign school’s academic calendar might affect your summer job, your post-graduation job search process, or your ongoing studies at HLS.
    • To learn more about a foreign school, review its web site and course catalog, talk with ILS staff and relevant faculty members, and read evaluations from and talk with HLS students who have studied there and/or lived and worked in the country or region.Find the students’ evaluations here (Harvard ID required).
  • What is the timeline for semester abroad?

    • Generally speaking, JD candidates study abroad in their 2L year or fall of their 3L year. Students who study abroad in the spring of their 3L year do not graduate until the following academic year, which can have ramifications for taking the bar exam and starting employment.
    • There are special considerations and restrictions for transfer students, joint degree students, and students who already hold a degree in law.
    • Whether you are considering an exchange program or an independent semester abroad, you initiate the planning process for your semester abroad — a process that should begin well before the semester when you plan to study abroad. You will need time to research and evaluate options, consider the impact that your semester abroad might have on the courses and credits you undertake at HLS, and complete the application process, which takes during place the semester before your intended semester abroad.
    • See our Semester Abroad: Planning and Application page for more information.
  • Who will advise me before and during my semester abroad?

    • Detailed information about eligibility, the application process and logistics, and descriptions of the exchange programs, are available on these Semester Abroad web pages.
    • ILS staff can answer questions and help you think through specific opportunities, issues or concerns. Please contact ILS staff at ils@law.harvard.edu.
    • In addition, you will select and work with two faculty advisors: one at HLS and a second at the foreign school. You should seek out an HLS faculty member whose areas of interest and expertise (thematic and/or geographic) are similar and relevant to the proposed semester abroad. (It is not necessary to have taken a course with a professor in order to approach them with a request for guidance or supervision.) Often HLS students are able to identify excellent foreign faculty advisors simply by determining who teaches the courses at the school abroad that are of the greatest interest to them. HLS professors and students (especially LL.M. and S.J.D. students) who have worked or studied in other countries can also suggest people who might be appropriate advisors.
    • You can also read evaluations from and talk with HLS students who have studied abroad and/or lived and worked in the country or region — including LL.M. and S.J.D. students. Find the students’ evaluations here (Harvard ID required).
    • See our Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements page for more information.
  • How do I select courses for semester abroad?

    • Choosing the courses you will take at the foreign school is a critical (and required) part of the planning and application process, both to ensure that your proposed course of study meets HLS and ABA requirements (in terms of both content and number of credits) and that it will enhance your studies at HLS. For these reasons, there are certain restrictions on course selection, and your proposed course of study, and any changes to it, must be approved by the Study Abroad Committee and your faculty advisors.
    • You should review the foreign school’s course catalog and HLS students’ evaluations; you may also consult with ILS staff and your faculty advisors. Find the students’ evaluations here (Harvard ID required).
    • See our Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements page for more information.
  • How many credits will I earn?

    • During the semester abroad, you will need to take courses equivalent to 10 to 12 HLS credits, with at least eight of these credits in law. Because foreign schools use different systems for applying credits, HLS uses a conversion system based on classroom hours, in accordance with ABA requirements, to calculate equivalent credits.
    • If you successfully complete all of the requirements of the study abroad program, your HLS transcript will reflect 10 to 12 credits (depending on your course load), graded “credit,” for the semester abroad.
    • In addition, in the semester following your semester abroad, you may write an independent one-credit paper, supervised by your HLS faculty advisor and written for a grade. This paper should be thematically related to some aspect of your academic work abroad.
    • See our Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements page for more information.
  • Do I need to be fluent in a foreign language to study abroad?

    • HLS students studying abroad are expected to take courses in the foreign school’s usual language of instruction. Although some schools offer courses in English, you may only take them if they are open to students regularly enrolled at the school. Generally speaking, your ability to take classes in the local language will allow you to select from a broader list of offerings. Even if you are able to take all or most of your classes in English, you will likely need proficiency in the local language in order to manage administrative tasks, navigate the city you’re studying in, and handle day-to-day needs.
    • See our Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements page for more information.
  • What about costs?

    • Students pay regular HLS tuition, to Harvard, for the semester abroad, and are fully eligible for comparable financial aid during that semester.
    • Living and studying abroad can be expensive and you should plan and budget accordingly. Additional costs may include visas, plane tickets, short-term housing, food, local transportation, and course materials. To help defray these costs, students receive a budget increase of $1,500, eligible for grant assistance, as part of their HLS financial aid package.
    • See our Semester Abroad: Tuition, Expenses, Insurance and Travel page for more information.
  • How do I apply?

    • As a first step, you will submit a detailed application — including a statement of interest, a preliminary course selection, a resume, an official transcript, and a recommendation from your HLS faculty advisor — early in the semester before your intended semester abroad. Students who are applying for an independent semester abroad are asked to provide additional information about the foreign law school they hope to attend.
    • If the HLS Study Abroad Committee approves your application, there will be further review by the foreign law school. The processes for exchange partner schools and independent foreign schools vary, and may involve nominations from HLS and/or a separate application by the student to the foreign school. In both cases, selections are ultimately made by the foreign law school.
    • See our Semester Abroad: Planning and Application page for more information.
  • What makes a strong application?

    • A strong application will demonstrate careful planning and a thoughtful approach to how a semester abroad will enhance your academic work at HLS. The Study Abroad Committee takes into consideration your academic record at Harvard Law School and your motivation for study abroad, including educational and professional objectives, as well as the “fit” between those objectives and the foreign law school you have chosen and your proposed program of study.
    • See our Semester Abroad: Planning and Application page for more information.