The city that never sleeps – an account of studying in Brooklyn Law School

If someone told me a year ago that I’d be writing this while looking out over the skyscrapers of Wall Street, sipping a slightly too hot coffee from my favourite coffee-shop,  after manoeuvring my way through the 9am runners in the Brooklyn Bridge Park – I would have  laughed out loud.

During my year at Brooklyn Law School I have been able to study a variety of subjects, complete my own research projects, and participate in numerous pro-bono clinics. It has been, by far, the best year of my undergraduate degree so far.

Brooklyn Law School offers an inspiring environment where students are encouraged to get involved in clinical work from the early days of their degrees. As a UCC student visiting for a year it has been fantastic to be able to get some actual practical experience in the legal field.

A few months ago I argued my first case in front of a judge and even though it was a slightly (extremely) terrifying experience, I grew magnificently from it. I realised that I could actually see myself as a lawyer in the future. Handling my own case and my own client gave me the confidence I needed to see a real future as a lawyer and it was a nice reassurance of the fact that I had not spent 3 years in Law School for nothing. The fact that I also won the case was a nice bonus.

Brooklyn Law School offers an extensive and comprehensive curriculum of courses to choose from. I have been taking classes ranging from Bioethics and Public Policy and International Commercial Arbitration to more practical classes such as Alternative Dispute Resolution and Divorce Mediation. It has been invaluable to be able to expand my curriculum in the way Brooklyn Law School has allowed me to during this year abroad.

Through the BCL (International) programme I have been able to not only study law in one of the most buzzing cities in the world, I have also been able to explore a whole new culture – and experience things I could only have dreamed of.

Last week I sat in the audience of the Late Show with David Letterman. Just like that, as if it was the most normal thing in the whole world. The week before that I nearly fell over Ethan Hawke on my way to class, as they were shooting a movie on the side-walk outside of my building. People reading poetry slam in the subway or break-dancing is nearly as much a part of the daily routine as your morning-coffee.

When I arrived here last August I was hit by an insane heat wave and the boiling city nearly threw me off living in a big city forever. New York is noisy, intense and quite overwhelming at times. It is nothing like Cork. For me the key to success was to create my own city, in the middle of the big city. New York is not as big as you think, but unless you find a way to create your own neighbourhood with your own favourite shops, walks and interesting New Yorkers to admire – it is easy to be overwhelmed by the size of this place.

I absolutely fell in love with Brooklyn Heights the minute I first walked from my apartment down to the Brooklyn Bridge. It is one of the oldest areas in New York with a rich historical architecture.  This is where the big stars retire to when they want to settle down and have a family. I hear Sarah Jessica Parker lives 5 minutes away from me.

It is not Manhattan but close enough. Here in Brooklyn Heights I managed to find my own place and my own space in this city. Filled with great restaurants, bars, second-hand shops and wine-bars, Brooklyn Heights is its own cultural Mecca. So it is not hard to fall completely in love.

Manhattan is only two Subway-stops away, so if you would (ever) get sick of the ‘peace’ and ‘quiet’ offered in the Heights, it just a hop, skip and a jump away to Soho and the buzzing nightlife in the Lower East Side. I am sure though, that once you do leave the Heights; you will be back sooner than you anticipated.

As this amazing experience is slowly coming to an end, all I can do is to encourage other people to choose the same path I did. New York City may not be everyone’s favourite cookie – and yes, it can be quite intimidating at first. However, if you give it a chance it will inevitably grow on you. Because that is what New York does to people – it traps you down and makes you never want to leave.


Annie Nevala
BCL International III (2013/2014)