By Trevor Stankiewicz L’23
In the middle of mashing potatoes and making stuffing, I received a text message that read: “Now, what do you mean when you say ‘rolls’?”
I was spending the Fall of 2022 studying abroad at the London School of Economics, and I was preparing to host my first Thanksgiving away from home. The dinner roll portion of the meal had been outsourced to Gareth Deane LLM’22, a close friend I had met at Penn Carey Law who was now working in London as a pupil barrister for Old Square Chambers. In the UK, Gareth informed me, a roll could be many different things: it could be a white cake, a bap, a huffkin, a scuffler, a barm cake, a scotch roll, or a buttery roll, just to name a few. This “roll play” served as a reminder of the complexities and miscommunications that can occur when trying to collaborate in the global arena.
Throughout my time at law school, I have been focused on international law with an emphasis on human rights. Making the decision to spend one of my six precious semesters away from Philadelphia was difficult, but it ultimately led to an extremely rewarding experience that provided me with a new perspective and an awareness of how the law can operate within the international system.
This had been my goal: to further my understanding of international human rights by immersing myself in a non-US perspective, both building upon and challenging American scholarship. I enrolled in classes such as International Criminal Law: Core Crimes and Context; The International Law of Self-Determination; Human Rights in the Workplace; and European Human Rights Law.
I was attending an LLM program at LSE, so I was surrounded by lawyers from all around the world who had already been practicing law in their home countries. Though this was initially an intimidating prospect given that I had only two years of law school behind me, I was quickly reassured by my classmates’ generosity with their knowledge.
While discussing the role of unions in employment law, for example, I learned from my Australian colleagues why union membership in their home country has fallen by nearly 70% in the last thirty years. When analyzing the potential legal arguments for the secession of Quebec, my Canadian seat neighbor shared her firsthand account of public sentiment on both sides of the issue. In reviewing the atrocities of World War II, my German classmate shared how Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, remains prevalent in Germany’s national memory. The diverse group of students in the classroom created wonderfully enriched discussions across all my classes, pushing back against assumptions I had previously made about what is possible through international law.
I was also able to learn beyond the classroom, visiting museums, monuments, and libraries. I was routinely humbled by the power of London’s tremendous cultural history. There were obvious places that I could not wait to visit, such as the Churchill War Rooms and the British Library. But it was the unplanned encounters that truly made London special. Walking down an ordinary street one day, for example, I was startled to find myself standing beneath the Edith Cavell Memorial, an incredible sculpture that pays tribute to Cavell’s heroism and sacrifice.
Perhaps even more cherished than the education I received were the friendships I made. On Thanksgiving Day, more than 3,500 miles from Philadelphia, as I mashed those potatoes, I thought about all that this experience had given me to be thankful for: for the knowledge I had gained from my professors at LSE; for my newly adopted home of London and its many gifts; for my friends, old and new, from Ireland, California, Saudi Arabia, England, Maryland, Nigeria, and Georgia; and for the three different types of roll Gareth had brought to Thanksgiving dinner because I forgot to respond to his text.
Looking back now on my time in London, I am most grateful for how that experience has informed my vision of the life I want to have once I graduate from Penn Carey Law: a life focused on work that I deeply care about, lived in a place that energizes me, filled with friends who support one other and encourage me to be a better version of myself—a life, ideally, packed with a tasty variety of carbs.