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Right now more than a million international students are studying in the United States. Many of them are in law school, hoping to earn JD degrees they can use to practice law in their home countries or perhaps start a rewarding legal career in the U.S.

But what is being an international student at a U.S. law school really like?

Get a sneak preview of the life of an international student by following these three inspiring law school stories.

Latoya Allen ’20, Jamaica

Laytoya-AllenFor Latoya Allen, the path to law school wasn't a direct one. Before coming to New England Law | Boston, the Jamaica native spent seventeen years in banking.

Her educational and career journey began at the University of the West Indies, where she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors, followed later by an MBA from the same institution. She assumed such roles as business banking executive, bulk currency supervisor, credit adjustor, and business development officer. But despite her professional success, Allen had even bigger plans.

“Studying law was a goal of mine from as early as I could remember,” she says. Finally she felt prepared to take what she considered to be a "bold step in faith” to fulfill that goal. First, she earned a Bachelor of Laws degree, with honors, through the University of London’s distance education program. Next came enrolling at New England Law.

Allen says that since moving here, she's enjoyed living and studying in the United States, even though it took some time to adjust. She found U.S. culture more structured than in the Caribbean, with people generally more reserved and less likely to engage in small talk with a stranger. She recalls striking up a conversation with a Bostonian who paused, looked at her quizzically, and said, "You’re not from here, are you?"

But despite the frosty reception Allen might’ve found outside, her recalls her time inside the halls of New England Law to be much warmer. She found getting to know her classmates to be relatively easy, even though at the time she was older than most of her peers. In fact, the first friend she made in law school hailed from Maine, a fact she found amusing given the chilly northern state’s many differences from tropical Jamaica.

Allen says her work in banking provided solid preparation for the transition to law school too. “I was always interested in compliance, and with the emphasis on regulations, there are similarities in banking and law.” Of course, even though her past experience was useful, Allen doesn’t minimize the challenges that come with going to law school.

“The most surprising thing for me was the depth of information that you're expected to absorb and reapply from day one,” she says. “It wasn't a walk in the park. You need to give a 100 percent effort.”

Along with her class work, Allen found a summer 2018 internship at a Florida law firm quite helpful in preparing for her law career. There she conducted legal research, researched and prepared trial motions and briefs, conducted site visits, and prepared defense analyses for review by practicing attorneys.

Looking back on her law school successes, Allen singles out several professors and staff members as being a huge help, including Lisa Freudenheim. “She was a mentor, a motivator, and one who has a genuine interest in the well-being of her students,” she says. Other law school faculty who have had a major impact include adjunct professor Justice Elaine Buckley, Director of Legal Research and Writing Gary Bishop, Instructor of Legal Writing Sidra Vitale, Professor Natasha Varyani, and Professor Monica Teixeira de Sousa. “They are all brilliant professors but, more importantly, genuinely good people.”

After completing her law degree in the U.S., Allen's taken a position as Staff Attorney at Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company, where she's been able to build off of her background and previous experiences.

Tabytha Marrero ’23, Brazil

Tabytha-SouzaTabytha Marrero’s long journey to law school took her around the world, from Australia to Brazil to Florida to Boston. However despite her vast travels, Marrero realized shortly after moving, that it was Massachusetts that really felt like home.

“There’s such a sense of community here,” she says. “People ask about me, and they even know my dog’s name. I’ve felt like I was home from day one.”

But getting to such a positive point hasn’t been without challenges. Born in Australia, Marrero grew up in Brazil and then came to the United States as part of a high school study abroad program. That move was difficult from the beginning. Family members disapproved of her plans, saying she should pursue a more “traditional” lifestyle. But Marrero asserted herself, and she eventually went to court where, thanks to help from an attorney who was a family friend, a judge approved her plans for leaving the country to pursue her studies. Later she enrolled at the University of Tampa and then the University of Florida, where she majored in philosophy and law interests.

Marrero notes that while she was accepted at larger law schools, she knew off the bat that New England Law was the best place for her. “At New England Law I'm not just a number,” she recounts. “All the professors like to engage with you, and you can talk to them whenever.” Marrero was even surprised at how easy it's been to make friends with her classmates. “I'm a really a shy person,” she says. “But people at New England Law have understood my personality.” The sense of community grew even stronger after Marrero learned she was pregnant. She says her professors reached out to offer assistance, and students in her class even planned a gender reveal party for her.

As with any law student, Marrero’s studies have kept her busy. And she knows that while law school is the right choice for her, that may not be true for everyone, especially international students uprooting themselves and traveling thousands of miles from home. “If this is not your passion, don’t do it,” she says. “Pursuing a legal career for money or recognition is not enough. But if you love it, don’t give up.”

While she has not yet settled on a legal specialty, Marrero is interested in human rights and immigration law. She has attended alumni networking events through the law school that provided the opportunity to meet attorneys in those areas, and talking with experienced lawyers has proven insightful. But she also realizes there is still plenty of time to choose a focus area.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Becoming an Immigration Lawyer

Quick to point out that many others have helped her in reaching her law school goals, Marrero says she hopes to do the same in her future career. “I don't want to limit myself on what I want to do with my law degree,” she says. “I think that I would be happy anywhere and doing anything that involves helping someone that doesn't have the power to help themselves.”    

Elisa Rhodes ’21, Canada

Elisa-RhodesFor first-year student Elisa Rhodes, attending law school in the U.S. was the logical next step in pursuing her career goals.

As an undergrad at Ottawa’s Carleton University, Rhodes wasn’t quite decided about which path to take, although she had always found the legal world interesting. But after exploring some related courses, her goal became clear.

“Being able to take law courses in my undergraduate degree confirmed my passion for the legal field,” she remarks. So she completed a bachelor’s degree in legal studies with a concentration in business law. She also followed through on her interest in international travel and exploring new cultures by signing up for a study abroad option, enjoying a year of coursework at LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome. She then gained some real-world experience as a bank customer sales representative.

Armed with those experiences, Rhodes felt prepared to attend law school as an international student, especially given the similarities between the U.S. and her native Canada. Once she relocated, she quickly felt at home in scenic New England.

“I love Boston,” she says. “It’s comparable in size to Ottawa, and the weather is much better than southern Canada.” 

Moving to the U.S. for law school also meant making new friends, but that went smoothly too. Rhodes credits New England Law for that. Through a Facebook page set up by the school, she was able to connect with new students well before arriving on campus. "It was really simple," she recalls. Once classes had begun, she enjoyed meeting and engaging with a diverse group of students. "You get a variety of age groups and backgrounds," she says. "It's nice to have different perspectives."

Of course, attending law school as an international student also comes with some challenges. One has been the reality of dealing with the obstacles that non-U.S. citizens can face looking for jobs. "That part was stressful since the employer needs to sponsor you after graduation," she noted.

At the same time, Rhodes was pleasantly surprised with her the school's hands-on learning experiences, which included positions during the academic year (different from the traditional summer time frame). During law school she had the chance to intern with a local law firm, serving as a project assistant. Another plus was finding out she could receive pay for working as an intern. She credits the Registrar's office for helping with this and other job-related issues. "I didn't know I could get paid for an internship until they pointed it out," she recalls. 

Rhodes acknowledges that it took extra effort to balance the duties of an intern with her law school classwork, but her employers understood her priorities. "They want your focus to be on your studies," she says.

As for the student experience, Rhodes enjoyed the focus of law school compared to the more broad-based undergraduate studies—even though it took some adjustment.

“Being a first-year student, it was difficult to adapt to the particular thinking and application methods that you are required to use in law school,” she says. “[But] I enjoyed being in a program directly related to the career path that I wanted to end up in.”

After finishing her degree at New England Law, Rhodes took an Associate position at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, located in Chicago, IL. There she's a transactional attorney who focuses her practice on mergers and acquisitions, including related equity, debt, and mezzanine financings.

Learn more about applying to law school as an international student.

Upcoming Events

The Center for International Law and Policy hosts several events each year, including film screenings, speaker panels, and symposia (see examples below). Many are open to the public as well.


Join us in Spring 2022 for the next panel in the Transitional Justice in the USA Speaker Series.


For more information about CILP events, including submitting talk proposals, please contact center director Lisa Laplante.

Past Events

Guest Speakers and Panels

These events bring practitioners and academics working on important legal issues in international law to share their expertise with the New England Law | Boston community.


Regulate-Big-Tech-webVivek Krishnamurthy, The Quest to Regulate Big Tech: Privacy, Free Expression, and Competition: Vivek Krishnamurthy, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, and Director, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, shared his insights regarding breaking up big tech companies to hold them liable for the content on their platforms and restrict their use of private data, particularly given the impact these companies have on the human rights of privacy and free expression.


supply-chains-modern-day-human-trafficking-posterSupply Chains and Modern Day Human Trafficking: This event featured Christina Bain, Director of the Initiative on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, who brings a wealth of experience studying human trafficking through the lens of business and how businesses use forced and trafficked labor. It is sure to be an enlightening and poignant discussion of the injustices behind some of the most common aspects of our consumer experience.


Transgender-Human-Rights-posterTaking a Closer Look at Transgender Human Rights: Panel featuring the following experts discussing the challenges the transgender community faces on a domestic and international scale: Kaden Mohamed, a member of the Steering Committee for the Massachusetts Transgender Coalition; William Berman, a clinical professor of law at Suffolk University; and Bruno Rodriguez Reveggino, a Peruvian international lawyer and former advisor to the president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Sponsored by the school's Center for International Law and Policy, the International Law Society, and OUTLaws, as well as the Boston Coalition for the Inter-American Human Rights System.


Matt-Gold-posterTrump’s Trade Wars: Are They Winnable? The United States’ trade agreements make up a whopping 90 percent of all public international law. What do these global trade agreements accomplish—and what’s going to happen now that the Trump administration is implementing radical new tariffs and other policy change? Professor of international trade law, former White House trade official, and New England Law alumnus Matt Gold  addressed these issues and more in this talk, co-sponsored by New England Law’s Center for International Law and Policy, Center for Business Law, and Office of Development and Alumni Relations.



Lorianne Updike Toler, Constitution-Writing at Home and Abroad: Constitutional legal historian and President of Libertas Constitutional Consulting, Toler shared her years of research studying the process of constitution writing.




Colombia-Expert-Meeting-posterWhat’s Business Got to Do with It? Peacebuilding in Colombia: Luis Fernando Angulo, executive director of El Centro Regional de Empresas y Emprendimientos Responsables (CILP’s partner organization in Colombia), and German Zamara, senior research director with CREER, provided an insider’s view of Colombia’s recent peace agreement and how the government has been seeking to involve the private sector in the peace process it spearheaded.



Viviana-PosterViviana Krsticevic, Assessing the Impact of Human Rights Litigation in the Americas: Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law, Krsticevic has been a human rights litigator in the Inter-American Human Rights System for over two decades, and CEJIL is one of the leading non-governmental groups to bring cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She shared some of her first-hand accounts of litigating in a regional human rights system while also offering her assessment of the direct impact of this work.

Combating Corruption in a New Global Reality: This panel discussed recent developments in the field of international corruption law. It featured Anthony Mirenda, Partner, Foley Hoag; Michael Granne, Associate, Zuber Lawler & Del Duca; and John Sherman, General Counsel, Shift. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.


Zhiyuan Guo: CILP collaborated with Center for Law and Social Responsibility to host this prominent Fulbright scholar and professor at China University of Political Science and Law. This daylong visit included activities for faculty and students and aimed to build our institutional relationship with a major Chinese law school.

Human Rights Day: A Poignant Discussion on Female Genital Mutilation: This panel featured alumna Katie Cintolo and New England Law Professor Dina Haynes, who had recently testified on Beacon Hill about a new bill on FGM.


Hon. Ganna Yudkivska, The Impact of the European Human Rights System on Democratization in Eastern Europe: Judge Yudkivska, who sits on the European Court of Human Rights, shared some of the recent developments of the rulings of the international human rights court in Europe. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

Human Rights and Corporate Liability: What You Need to Know: This panel shared useful knowledge regarding the evolving international legal and policy framework that may impact how legal practitioners work with corporations of all sizes. Panelists included John Sherman, general counsel and senior advisor, Shift; Tyler Giannini, clinical professor of law and co-director, Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program and the International Human Rights Clinic; and Amanda Werner, legal and policy fellow, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

Justice Defenders: Who Defends Those Who Defend Human Rights? This panel highlighted the work of lawyers working to protect and defend human rights advocates. Panelists included Priscila Rodriguez Bribiesca, founder and legal director, Mexican-U.S. NGO Strategic Defense and Communication for Change (SAKBE), and Fergal Gaynor, counsel for victims in an ICC case, Prosecutor v. Uhuru Kenyatta.

Dustin Lewis, Anti-Corruption and Counterterrorism Measures: An Overview for NGOs and Corporations Operating in Insecure Environments: Lewis, a senior researcher at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, explored the issues and concerns that arise for NGOs and corporations operating in armed conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies such as what due diligence and risk mitigation would entail for organizations working in relation to Syria or Somalia. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.


Terrorism and the Material Support Statute: A Panel Discussion on the First Circuit’s Decision in United States v. Mehanna and Related Issues: The panel explored the various issues and debates stemming from the First Circuit’s decision in November 2013 in which the Court affirmed the conviction of Tarek Mehanna, a 30-year old pharmacist from Sudbury, Massachusetts, for material support for terrorism. Panelists included Professor Andrew March, Yale Law School; Professor Peter Margulies, Roger Williams School of Law; and Sabin Willett, Bingham McCutchen LLP. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

International Disability Law: Opening Doors for Access and Inclusion: This event featured both out of state and local speakers discussing the effectiveness of international conventions regulating disability law, and identify the next steps in addressing the needs of the international disabled population. Speakers included Daniela Caruso, Professor of Law, Boston University; Eric Mathews, Advocacy Associate, Disability Rights International; and Diana Samarasan, Founding Executive Director, Disability Rights Advocacy Fund & Disability Rights Fund.


Julia Rogers, One Seed at a Time: The United Nations, Food Security, and Development: As a legal consultant with the United Nations and other international organizations, Ms. Rogers advises developing countries on legislative reforms to strengthen their agriculture sector and promote food security. Her work has taken her to Afghanistan, Ethiopia, East Timor, Angola, and Tanzania to hold in-depth dialogues with key stakeholders–from government officials to farmers associations. She provided her personal reflections on the challenges of engaging in legal work to support countries on the path to development.

Human Rights Film Screenings

Documentaries help to highlight and bring to life pressing international issues which otherwise often seem remote and abstract. Each fall semester, the law school and CILP organize a film screening to foster dialogue and raise awareness of pressing human rights concerns. These events often include a panel or guest lecture.


Trials-of-Spring-posterThe Trials of Spring: Center for International Law and Policy hosted a private screening of Fork Films’ The Trials of Spring, featuring special guests Hend Nafea and Marie O’Reilly. Hend is the subject of the film, which follows the immediate aftermath of the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, specifically her story as an activist and protester who was sexually assaulted by the Egyptian military for speaking out against sexual and physical violence towards women. Hend challenged being sexually assaulted during her fight for democracy, helping expose how systematic sexual violence became a tactic of repressing legitimate protest. O’Reilly is a writer, researcher, and film producer exploring the nexus of gender, peace, and security. Both Hend and O’Reilly spoke to attendees following the screening.


The-Uncondemned-posterThe Uncondemned: Making its first public screening in Boston, this documentary tells the story about the litigation strategy devised by a young group of lawyers working for the International Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute the crime of rape as a part of an overall charge of genocide—the Akayesu case was the first of its kind. Filmmaker Michele Mitchell then gave remarks and answered questions after the film. Community partners included Komera, Peace is Loud, and the MaranyundoInitiative.


the-man-who-mends-women-posterThe Man Who Mends Women: This International Women’s Day film screening featured a documentary about Dr. Denis Mukwege, renowned doctor and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who dedicated his life to repairing the bodies of women who were raped during the 20 years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This event was organized in collaboration with United Nations Association of Greater Boston's Global Women's Circle and Harvard School of Public Health.


price-we-pay-posterThe Price We Pay: This award-winning Canadian documentary revealed how large corporations use tax havens to escape paying taxes. We also featured guest speaker Gillian Caldwell, CEO of Global Witness, one of the organizations that helped to uncover the Panama Papers, which helped to reveal the vast corruption with secret tax havens. The film was screened during an event titled Shady Business: The Offshore Industry of Tax Havens, Shell Companies, and Crime.


First Light: This film provided an overview of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the first such body for Native Americans in the United States. The TRC uncovered the discrimination experienced by the Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine child welfare system. The film’s director, Adam Mazo, and activists featured in the work joined us for a panel discussion after the screening.


Co-Exist. This film was screened during an event entitled Healing After Genocide: Stories from Rwanda, which was in recognition of the 20 years that had passed since the genocide in Rwanda. The documentary is about the difficult healing process after the genocide. The law school and CILP were fortunate to be able to organize the event in coordination with the NGO Coexist Learning Project. One of the activists featured in the film, Solange Nyirasafari, traveled from Rwanda to join us.


granito-posterGranito: How to Nail a Dictator. This film provides a captivating tale of how a small international legal team managed to bring former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt to justice. During his brief leadership in the early 1980s, General Ríos Montt orchestrated a brutal government policy that led to the massacre of many Mayan villages. The film is produced by Pamela Yates whose 1983 film When the Mountains Tremble helped inform the world of this horrific tragedy. This film is her latest documentary and narrates how she was approached to be a witness against the General and how her incriminating footage from her earlier film became critical to the litigation strategy.