While I had high expectations for my Master of Laws (LL.M.) at Harvard Law School (HLS), even those were exceeded. One the one hand, the academic experience at HLS is unparalleled, at least in my experience. On the other hand, Boston (‘the birthplace of the American revolution’) is an excellent starting point to explore the broader United States—an endlessly intriguing place.
First of all, the course catalog of HLS is massive: it contains over 500 subjects, from ‘Administrative Law in the Trump Era’ to ‘Women, Work and Ambition’. I focused my curriculum on courses within my area of specialization, namely the regulation of new technologies. Luckily, this choice didn’t limit the topics I came into contact with: almost every day, I attended one of the 10-15 ‘lunch talks’ that were organized, where a speaker would illuminate a topic of interest—from voting laws to investment arbitration to ‘making it in the entertainment industry’.
It amazed me how personal the education was. Over the course of the year, I asked several professors out for lunch, and was never turned down. I even had lunch with the dean (who’s standing next to me in the picture). And when I came home to Belgium, a card from one of my professors wishing me the very best for the future was waiting in my mailbox. Of course, the privilege of such personal education comes at a cost (literally), and remaining conscious of this made me all the more grateful.
My days at HLS didn’t end when my courses did (and I had read up for next day’s courses). For one, I worked as a submissions editor at two legal journals (Harvard Business Law Review and Harvard Journal of Law and Technology), reviewing whether articles submitted to the journal were fit for publication. HLS also hosts a wealth of student societies. As a Belgian, I considered it my patriotic duty to attend at least some meetings of the beer society (‘Beeritas’).
I also ventured outside of the university, which—despite its diverse student body and faculty—can still feel like a ‘bubble’ at times. The Boston Common (the first public park in the United States) offered a welcome change of perspective, whether I was throwing footballs with a lonesome kid or feeding squirrels with an older man. Luckily, I also had the opportunity travel. During my Fulbright Orientation Seminar, for example, I spent a weekend in Richmond, which served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. I had dinner with a family that lived along a street lined with statues of Confederate generals, which provided more than enough material for an animated conversation.
While I have always been fascinated with the United States, I only grasped many of its intricacies by living in the country. Within the limits of this blog post, suffice it to say that the country is as complex as it is beautiful. Having completed my program, I will use the valuable knowledge and skills I gathered to strengthen my research on abuse of market power by online platforms. Equally importantly, I will build on my experience to further increase mutual understanding between the U.S. and Belgium/Europe (a task that is now more difficult but also more relevant than ever).
My year at HLS would have been impossible were it not for Fulbright and in particular the Frank Boas Scholarship. Any expression of gratitude will thus be insufficient. However, as actions speak louder than words, I would like to start giving back by inviting anyone who is considering or already applying to LL.M. programs in the United States to contact me should they have questions.
Friso Bostoen is a 2018-2019 Fulbright Student in law to Harvard Law School and recipient of the Harvard Boas AwardArticles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.