Jepson at Cambridge

January 5, 2023

Study-abroad program introduces undergraduates to comparative U.K.-U.S. law, British culture

Mornings in the classroom discussing U.S. and U.K. law. Afternoons sampling tea and scones or relaxing in a flat-bottomed boat while punting down the Cam River. Evenings sharing brews and fish and chips with friends at a local pub. Weekends exploring London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. Seven Jepson School of Leadership Studies students did all this and more as participants in the Jepson at Cambridge Program July 3 – Aug. 6.

Part of a cohort of nine undergraduates and 11 law students, including nine University of Richmond School of Law students, the Jepson students attended two law-focused classes at Emmanuel College in Cambridge. Founded in 1584 during the reign of Elizabeth I, “Emma,” as the school is affectionately known, is one of 31 autonomous colleges comprising the University of Cambridge.

“In my Legal History course, I learned how the English legal system evolved to form the basis of the modern U.K. and U.S. legal systems,” said Lauren Oligino, ’24. “We covered topics including the emergence of tort, land law, circuit courts, and juries.”

“The Comparative Public Law of the U.S. and U.K. class made me realize how different the British and American legal systems are,” said Sam Shapiro, ’23. “I gained perspective on both the shortcomings and advantages of the American legal system.”

The students also benefitted from experiential learning, including a field trip to London, a short train ride from Cambridge. They toured Middle Temple (one of four Inns of Court entitled to call their members to the English Bar) and the Royal Courts of Justice, which is home to the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. 

The undergraduates organized their own weekend excursions: They hiked Arthur’s Peak, an ancient volcano overlooking Edinburgh; explored a sixth-century monastic settlement in Glendalough, Ireland; and smelled the roses at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin.

Despite the lack of air conditioning in Cambridge, a record summer heat wave in no way detracted from their experience, said Sofie Martinez, ’23. “Whenever we got too hot, we jumped in the Cam River or hung out in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. One evening while Lauren Oligino was out at the pub, the ceiling of her residence hall room caved in. The heat had dried out the plaster. We like to say, ‘Beer saved Lauren!’”

Bonding with fellow students over their shared study-abroad experience was a highlight for her and her peers, Oligino said. “A lot of our learning happened outside the classroom. We got tea together and discussed our thoughts on the class material or current events. Participating in Jepson at Cambridge allowed me to grow as both a person and student.”

Undergraduates interested in participating in the 2023 Jepson at Cambridge Program should apply by Feb. 15.