New program at UI College of Law connects international and domestic law students to ease transition, build bridges
Monday, November 7, 2016

A second-year law student from Nigeria who has been studying in the United States since the beginning of her undergraduate career, Ojone Ameadaji knows how difficult it can be to attend school in a new country, away from a support system and familiarity.

That’s why she decided to get involved in the University of Iowa College of Law’s new Global Ambassadors Program, aimed at providing a built-in support system for Iowa Law’s international student body.

students at event
Second-year law student Ojone Ameadaji (center) visits with her peers during a Global Ambassadors Program outing to Wilson’s Orchard in Iowa City. Photo by Natalie Flores.

“This will be my sixth year as an international student, and I’m very aware of the intensity of the transition,” says Ameadaji, who completed her undergraduate studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before attending Iowa Law. “When you consider not just the culture and language barriers, but also that humor and friendships are so different in this country, there is so much to get used to, and I wanted to support other international students who are just beginning to go through it.”

The Global Ambassadors Program is taking shape this semester after international law students participated in a focus group last spring.

The response? Students wanted more opportunities to connect with their peers—not just to make friends, but also to cultivate a core group of confidants they could turn to with questions as they continued to adjust to law school and life in the U.S.

Did you know?

The UI College of Law has 40 international students and permanent residents  on campus this semester who represent 14 different countries, including:

China, Colombia, France, Honduras, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Turkey, and Uganda.

The Global Ambassadors Program now meets regularly and is comprised of both domestic and international students who were interested in participating. The group hosts an off-campus event each month, and new members have the option of being paired with a returning student who can serve as a first point of contact for questions as they arise.

Sarah Thielen, a second-year law student from Dubuque, Iowa, says she joined the Global Ambassadors Program this fall not only to help her international peers, but to enrich her understanding of other cultures and the way law is practiced around the world.

“Programs like this make me think about everything I’m learning in law school in another context, and it reminds me that the way our country does things is not the only way to do things,” says Thielen, who first became interested in international law when she joined the law school’s International Law Society last year and studied abroad in France over the summer. “Other countries have a totally different view of the legal world that works just fine for them, so it’s interesting to discuss how other countries handle the same challenges we face.”

Ameadaji says the program also has helped international and domestic law students realize what they have in common.

“Aside from having a group of people who are your friends, this program helps students get comfortable with the law school and shows we are all special and bring something unique to the community that we are creating here,” says Ameadaji. “In the end, we fundamentally have the same goals—we are interested in justice and want to be part of the greater legal community.”