Italy and South Africa are 5,000 miles apart. But at the annual international party hosted by the Harvard Law School LL.M. Class of 2013 on Feb. 16, the countries were suddenly neighbors, with students from each country handing out their favorite traditional treats while dressed as gondoliers or rugby players.

Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and family members filled the Harkness Commons in the Caspersen Student Center for a chance to immerse themselves in the cultures of their graduate student classmates, who hail from more than 70 countries. They filled their plates with dishes ranging from Chinese chicken feet and Australian Vegemite to Italian Nutella and Middle Eastern hummus.

“It’s really an opportunity for a lot of the LL.M class, who feel like they’re here being hosted by Americans, to give back and host in return,” said Jennifer Chan, an LL.M. from Vancouver, British Columbia, who helped organize this year’s party. “Everyone’s really proud to put on their cultural dress and prepare the foods that they love and miss from home.” The international party has been an annual event at the law school for more than a decade.

When graduate students returned home for the holidays in December, they made sure to load their suitcases with their favorite foods and ingredients, which they then had to resist for more than a month in order to save them for the international party.

For the J.D. students who also hail from other countries, the night provided an opportunity to reconnect to their homes.

“It’s nice to go to a table and see food from where you’re from,” said Valérie Duchesneau, a 2L from Montreal. “It makes you feel appreciated.”

—Lana Birbrair

Students drew henna tattoos, handed out Japanese fortunes and translated English names into Chinese calligraphy.

After 20 graduate students led a Bollywood flash mob dance, students enjoyed a dance party that lasted until midnight.

Crowd favorites, including Chinese dumplings, Swiss chocolates, profiteroles and sushi, quickly ran out.

“Most people I meet here ask where I’m from, but they don’t know where it is,” said Salwa Mohamed Saleh (center), an LL.M. student from Chad who showed a video about the Toubou women of northern Chad. “I wanted to share my culture.”

The LL.M. Class of 2013

  • 71 countries and jurisdictions from Argentina to Zambia are represented
  • 187 students of which 97% are international
  • 48% are women, 52% are men
  • 36% hold advanced degrees, including 8 Ph.D.s
  • 64% have 2 or more years of practice or teaching experience
  • 19 LL.M. students have worked as Supreme Courts clerks or as Constitutional Court clerks in countries including Australia, Canada, France, Israel, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Singapore, and South Africa
  • The class includes six prosecutors, two judges and eight law teachers as well as one Rhodes scholar, sixteen Fulbright scholars, and one Ford Foundation International Fellow