Northern Kentucky University (NKU) is an American university that lies in the tranquil suburb of Highland Heights, Kentucky – just a short seven miles away from downtown Cincinnati, a diverse metropolis of 2.1 million people in the great Midwestern state of Ohio. The university fosters an inclusive and diverse campus environment while also successfully maintaining a high level of academia and learning.

Anna Korneeva, a second-year law student from Russia, shares with us her experiences as an international student in the United States studying at NKU’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

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Living in Russia 

Anna was born and raised in Tula, Russia – an industrial city 120 miles south of Moscow and best known for being the home and burial place of the renowned Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. Cold weather and snow always remind her of her hometown, where, regardless of weather conditions, she and her friends would go outside and play. It wasn’t all gloves and coats for Anna, however, as in the summertime her family would travel to their dacha, or summer cottage, outside the city to revel in the warmer weather, grow fruits and vegetables and go mushroom hunting.  

Anna completed her undergraduate education in Russia at the Tulskij Gosudarstvennyj Universitet. She reflects on her time there and comments that the professors were extremely dedicated to their subjects, though they maintained a formal relationship with their students. Having said this, the technical aspects of teaching were very liberal and the structure of courses was not tied to strict regulation or a syllabus.

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Making the United States her Home 

Upon her arrival in the United States, Anna was proficient in the English language. She quickly realised, however, that the American dialect is very different from the British English she had been taught in school. “It was hard to understand people at first,” she says. “I took some waitressing jobs that were beneficial in helping me overcome my language barrier, plus the nature of the work gave me exposure to various kinds of people in the United States,” she says.  

Anna gives the following tips to new international students struggling with unfamiliar American English jargon. “Try not to limit your social exposure to your ethnic community. It’s always beneficial to get out of your comfort zone and speak more with local people. It’s hard at first, but it gets easier,” she promises. She adds that writing down new words and phrases along with a translation helps with memorisation and that talking in front of a mirror can also be helpful.

From personal experience, Anna also advises against assuming the meaning of a word from the context of any book as this can often lead to unfortunate misinterpretations.

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How Studying Law in the US Differs from Russia

Unlike the Unites States’ common law practice, Russia’s legal system is based on civil law. This means that it follows a comprehensive legal code that not only specifies all issues that can be brought to court but also the procedures and punishments for each infringement of the law. This major difference resulted in a steep learning curve for Anna, as an overseas student studying law in the United States.

“The whole concept of common law – in effect, judge-made law – and the usage of precedents as binding law were completely new to me. Judges have so much more power in this system – they can make laws on the spot. At the same time, they do not act like investigators as they sometimes do in Russia,” Anna comments.

There are also different teaching methods applied in the US, as compared to some other places around the world. Internationally, it is common for the lecture-method to be used as the most common form of teaching in law school. “The Socratic Method – in which a professor and student engage in a question/answer dialogue to analyse a case – employed in law schools here reminded me of my experience in high school in Russia, and it made me as nervous as a child at first! At the same time, it made me study harder from the very beginning; I believe this method is superior to the lecture-method since it engages people in a discussion to truly understand the material.”

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Obtaining an LLM in United States Law at Salmon P. Chase College of Law 

The Salmon P. Chase College of Law was founded as an independent law school in 1893 in the city of Cincinnati before it integrated with Northern Kentucky University in 1971. The Chase College of Law awards the initial US law degree of a Juris Doctor and an advanced law degree of an LLM in United States Law. This particular type of LLM degree is designed for individuals who earned an initial law degree outside the United States and want to have a better understanding of the United States legal system to utilise in representing clients in their home countries or in dealing with US lawyers. In the United States, individual states control the practice of law. In some of them, an internationally trained lawyer who earns an LLM in United States Law at an American law school can be eligible to take a bar examination to be allowed to practice law in that state.

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Learn From Leading Professionals and Scholars at NKU 

The NKU Chase College of Law prides itself in offering its students a modern, stimulating academic environment and its professors are an integral part of this equation. Chase professors are passionate about the law and the classes that they teach – most of them are experienced lawyers and with this professional background they are able to apply and teach practical knowledge and skills to their students.

With about 400 students Chase is the largest law school in Kentucky. Chase professors, however, know each student by name; the effort that this takes showcases the dedication that professors feel to students and it also reflects the important one-on-one attention that you will receive at NKU Chase.

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Make Lasting Friendships and Connections 

Anna’s law classes reflect a diverse group of people of different ages and backgrounds. Many of Anna’s classmates are adults with families and there are also some who have arrived at NKU straight out of college. She has become good friends with her classmates and peers despite the differences. In fact, she states that though they are all different, they share a common goal and that automatically brings them all together. The Chase College of Law, and NKU on a whole, have a supportive and friendly environment – one where international students enjoy easy access to faculty and staff, numerous campus activities and advice and encouragement when needed.

Northern Kentucky University and its Chase College of Law welcome students from all around the world. To find out more about the university, visit the SchoolApply website for more information and apply now!