Paragraphs and perspectives: a legal study tour
The famous scales of Lady Justice have long since ceased to be impartial. National laws are influenced by global events and international treaties, which lie like additional weights in the scales. And things like trade, climate protection and peaceful coexistence can only be shaped meaningfully in a collective process. Prof. Dr Michael Jaensch’s work at HTW Berlin has been marked from the outset by his ambition to create a form of legal education that transcends national borders. His course “Internationalisation at Home - Spring School”, for which he received the 2023 Good Teaching Award, is the concrete result of this aspiration.
An idea is born
The idea for the course originated in Vietnam, when, during the German-Vietnamese Law Days, Jaensch met the student fraternity “Moot Court Club” one evening after the conference. Jaensch explains: “A moot court is a simulated court proceeding in which a fictitious or real case is heard and the students each assume the role of one of the parties to the case. These proceedings have a competitive character and a symbolic winner is chosen at the end.” During subsequent discussions with the Vietnamese students, the idea to bring students from HTW Berlin to Vietnam to hold an intercultural moot court was raised.
From vision to reality
Back in Germany, talks with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FEF) were held and the idea became a course concept for an elective module, within the framework of which various excursions abroad take place, including the Spring School Vietnam each winter semester. The FEF agreed to provide financial and organisational support as a result of the course’s substantive focus on the area of human rights, as well as against the background of the German-Vietnamese Rule of Law Dialogue. As Jaensch specialises in the field of contract law, he required support from other lecturers with expertise in international law, which he found initially in the German Academic Exchange Service’s long-term lecturer in Hanoi and, subsequently, at the universities of Regensburg and Augsburg, with the result that Jaensch’s course not only promotes transnational but also inter-university cooperation. dispelling fears and eliminating preconceptions in the process.
After funding was secured, a call for applications for the Spring School was launched and the selection of students took place. Between October and January, fundamental content on the presentation topics was taught in the form of lectures. Students formed groups of two, chose their topics and prepared presentations on one specific human right each, which were coordinated with the professors via Zoom. In addition, intercultural skills were taught, because the different cultures and communication styles require special sensitivity. The travel arrangements were discussed. This phase laid the foundations for the time spent in Vietnam.
Ten days in Vietnam
Once in Vietnam, a tight schedule awaited the participants. The brief time in Hanoi and the surrounding area was filled with lectures, insights into the political situation in Vietnam, guest lectures from the Ministry of Justice and the German Embassy and student presentations on human rights. A social programme with excursions and joint activities was also on offer. The highlight was, without question, the intercultural “moot court”.
The moot court: challenges and opportunities
Initially, mixed groups featuring students from Germany and Vietnam were formed. At noon, the groups were given their case, which they were tasked with analysing from the perspectives of both sides. This is because it was only on the next day of the proceedings that the draw to determine the specific stance they needed to argue from was made - either that of the applicant or that of the opponent. The students developed their argumentation over the course of just two days and, as in a real court case, submitted a pre-formulated statement, which was then discussed at the trial. The “moot court” was not only part of the course examination, but also an opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills, learn from each other and experience how the cultural imprint can influence the perspective on a case.
“The Spring School has already helped some students to become far more aware, and turned them into committed lawyers,” says Jaensch. Such experiences from ten years of project work illustrate the fact that intercultural bridge-building and exchange across different legal systems is no mere ideological concept, but a vital asset within academic teaching.
Teaching and learning without borders – further information
The importance of gaining experience abroad for teaching and learning, as well as for the professional success of university graduates is growing. HTW Berlin therefore also supports exchange and teaching projects with international partner institutions that are partly or completely virtual. This “virtual exchange” includes various formats, including Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) and Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP). The International Office will be happy to support you as you plan and implement your project!
Advice for teachers
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