Law School’s Vietnam Study Abroad has a bright future


The signing of a memorandum of understanding with the University of Law at Hue University was a highlight of the trip.

The signing of a memorandum of understanding with the University of Law at Hue University was a highlight of the trip.

The University of Akron (UA) School of Law’s inaugural two-week study abroad excursion to Vietnam last May was, by all accounts, an unqualified success—except for the steamy tropical heat.

Faculty members Patrick Gaughan, assistant dean of global engagement and associate professor of law, and Gary Spring, former clinical and current visiting professor, led the group of seven students. They were joined a few days in by Dean Emily Janoski-Haehlen, who signed an updated memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hanoi Law University and a new MOU with Hue University of Law in ceremonies at each of the schools.

“It was an amazing experience for the students and me,” Janoski-Haehlen said. “We will definitely be returning to Vietnam in the future, but in January, when the weather there is more temperate.”

The students arrived in Hanoi on Friday night, May 19, and had Saturday and Sunday to begin acquainting themselves with Vietnam’s capital city.

“Hanoi is very safe,” Gaughan said. “We asked that the students stay together for the first few days, but after that they were allowed to break into smaller groups. They visited Hanoi’s famous Hoan Kiem Lake, the Old Quarter, the Supreme People’s Court, a criminal trial and the Hanoi office of global law firm Baker McKenzie. Every single one of the students was just blown away by Vietnam.”

The next week the students attended classes at Hanoi Law University during the day, where they learned from the school’s professors about the Vietnamese government, legal system and approaches to environmental law. They had more courses like this at Hue Law. Prior to leaving Akron, the students took a 2-credit intercession course on Global Lawyering taught by Spring and also took either a 1-credit or a 3-credit Law & Economics course taught by Gaughan.

3L Nadine Jones was pleased by the opportunities to engage with Vietnamese law students in Hanoi and Hue. “The whole trip was very exciting, but I especially liked that we had a lot of contact with the students there. With my background in foreign relations and political science, we had a lot to talk about in the geopolitical area,” she said.

“There was a lot of diversity in terms of the places we visited and the cultural components that made the trip more valuable for me beyond learning about economics or their legal system,” she added.

“It was a fast-paced schedule and there was a big focus on academics, so initially we worried that there wouldn’t be enough free time, but there turned out to be plenty,” said 2L Will Hatt. “In Hanoi they paired us up with a couple of the law students who spoke excellent English. They traveled with us to different places in Hanoi.”

The students also enjoyed side trips to Hạ Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site several hours east of Hanoi that features thousands of islands and limestone karst formations, and Da Nang, a popular tourist destination on the coast south of Hue, famous for its beaches.

The group’s tour guide at Baker McKenzie was Ngoc Le, a young associate who took Gaughan’s UCC Sales course in fall 2017 when she attended UA on an undergraduate study abroad program. The two kept in touch over the years.

Hatt was particularly inspired by the trip. “When I came to law school, I didn't have a clear understanding of what I wanted to do, but I've always had a passion for international experiences and opportunities. Now, I would love to work in Vietnam.”