This semester, NYU Shanghai welcomed 14 students from the NYU School of Law to its Pudong campus, for the study abroad program, NYU Law in Asia. As one of the three study abroad locations for students in their second and third year of the NYU Juris Doctor program, the students will take courses in Chinese business law, Chinese legal institutions, and international disputes. The other study abroad locations, Paris and Buenos Aires, specialize in European and South American law, respectively.

Currently, there are seven professors conducting courses in entrepreneurial law, international business and transactions in China, topics in Chinese law, and international arbitration. In addition to this, students can also conduct their own research, with a professor’s approval. All professors are distinguished legal experts on Asia, with the former Dean of Law at Tsinghua University currently teaching a course on law and social change in China.

However, the program is more than just a few law courses in China. The group of 14 most recently had the opportunity to travel to Beijing and speak with the U.S. Embassy, as a part of their class on law and social change.

Each student was also required to take a two-week intensive introduction to Chinese law, which covered topics in religion, domestic violence and gender, property law and urbanization, and Chinese history. For third-year student Leah Calvo, the course was a “good overview and framework” of China. By the conclusion of the course, second-year student D.K. Smith was able to successfully “report back to [employers and friends in] the U.S. with a comprehensive understanding of China”.

In addition to this, the program allows law students from other Chinese universities to audit the classes. The purpose of this is to maximize the experience and learning of NYU Law students, while allowing students of other universities to utilize the international resources that NYU has to offer.

Elizabeth Cheung-Gaffney administers the program and has worked in Shanghai as a part of the NYU US-Asia Law Institute, specializing in arbitration law. Cheung-Gaffney  As the coordinator for the program here in Shanghai, Cheung-Gaffney believes that China was a suitable fit for the NYU Law Study Abroad program:

“China is an attractive place for law students [because there] is so much going on in terms of its position in the world – especially from a legal standpoint. China’s shifts in demographics and increased urbanization have large legal implications and make it a very interesting place to be for students.”

Currently, the program only operates for a semester at a time, in a similar fashion to undergraduate study abroad. However, it is the only U.S. study abroad program available in China, which conducts its own curriculum and employs specified professors. In Cheung-Gaffney’s view, as “the programs become more and more ingrained as a core aspect of NYU Law, more students will look to study at NYU Law.”

For students, the opportunity to study in China was simply an opportunity they could not miss. Although sites also operate in Paris and Buenos Aires, second year law student Darien Smith believes that because China is so “commercially and economically driven, this is prime time to immerse [oneself] in Chinese culture and learn about doing business in China.” Smith was looking for a study abroad site that would add value to the U.S. law firm he will be working for over the summer, and ultimately, to his career.

In terms of boosting an attraction to NYU Law, both Smith and third-year student Leah Calvo agree that the study abroad program will most definitely attract future students. As Smith has reported back to classmates in New York, he has already seen an increase in “very interested” students. For Smith, “any international experience you gain while studying is priceless”, and this is something that NYU understands.

However, the choice to study abroad is still a very personal one. For Calvo, she “felt that China in 20 years will be an even bigger deal than it is now. [However], although people know about this program, the decision to move abroad is huge.”


This article was written by Bella Farr. Send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Tirza Alberta


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