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Friday, November 19, 2004

A big experience in a small country

Uruguay The chance to see other cultures and interact with faculty and students who have different perspectives is one of the great things about a Fulbright  grant.  In the forthcoming issue of the AALS Contracts Newsletter, Scott Burnham (Montana) talks about his teaching experiences in Uruguay.

Click the link below for the full story.

Great Time in a Small Country:
A Fulbright is a Fine Way to See the World

by Scott Burnham
University of Montana School of Law

Trivia Question: What is the southernmost capital city in South America?

Uruguay_1 The answer is Montevideo, Uruguay, where I just spent two weeks teaching as a Fulbright scholar. This was my first trip to South America, and an incentive to overcome some of my geographical ignorance. Montevideo is way down there, on a parallel with the Cape of Good Hope and Sydney, Australia—and across the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires, which is a 12-hour flight from the US. You may remember Uruguay as the locus of the 1973 Costa-Gavras film, State of Siege, which revolved around the government’s repression of the left-wing Tupemaros (and in which people inexplicably speak French).

As in Europe, law school in Argentina and Uruguay is a five-year undergraduate program. I was invited by the Universidad de Montevideo (www.um.edu.uy), which is a fairly new private school. After the first year, the students take one course each semester in English that introduces them to U.S. law and international transactions. I taught the third course, "Basic Guidelines on Contracts and Torts."

Burnhams_class My students [click on photo at left for a bigger image] were fantastic! I used U.S. teaching methods, assigning students to recite on the cases. Since much of their program consists of rote learning of the code, they enthusiastically embraced the case method. Because they were already familiar with concepts of contract law, they were able to quickly grasp the differences in our system. They weren’t prepared for the flinty-eyed view of autonomous contracting parties. As one student blurted out after we had studied Mills v. Wyman, "You people aren’t responsible to anyone!"

The program that sponsored me is the Fulbright Senior Specialist program, administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (www.cies.org). In theory, after you are qualified, you are put on the roster and the host country finds that you match its needs. In reality, the host country often determines that it wants you and asks you to put yourself on the roster. Once you are chosen, the host country pays your living expenses and Fulbright pays your transportation and a $200/day honorarium for a 2-6 week stint.

My host country could not have been more accommodating. The curriculum coordinator, Juan Manuel Gutierrez, had spent a year at Columbia getting a Masters in Intellectual Property, and is dedicated to building a quality program. He arranged for my 14-year-old daughter to attend school at a private school across the street from the law school. She had a great time, and says she wants to spend a year abroad while she is in high school.

Fellow_fulbrighters Needless to say, I urge you to take advantage of this program. It truly serves the Fulbright goal of being of mutual benefit to all involved in the program. I am attaching photos of me with my class and with a group of other Fulbrighters [left; click to enlarge] on an outing in Montevideo.

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