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Paralegal students gain valuable experiences in Norway

For students who have participated in work and study abroad programs, the consensus is that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Taylor Sanders, Samantha Denlinger, Travis Peterson and Colleen Anderson, all students in the Paralegal Studies Program, agreed that the knowledge they gained during their time in Norway extended past that related to their future careers.

“Traveling abroad is a 10 out of 10 recommendation for me, whether it be for studies, a job, a vacation or an internship. It was one of the absolute best experiences of my life,” Denlinger said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I would go back in a heartbeat to see the friends I made along the way. If anyone gets an opportunity to travel abroad, do it. You will learn some of the most valuable things.”

Travis Peterson, Samantha Denlinger, center, and Taylor Sanders posed for a photo in Trondheim, Norway.

The students were guided through the process by John Schlageter, director of the Paralegal Studies Program. Last year, Schlageter traveled to Norway with the goal of increasing collaborations with enterprises in the public and private sectors of the country.

“I believe that international learning helps students understand a variety of cultural and community perspectives. Prospective paralegal employers look favorably upon experience gained while living overseas,” Schlageter said. “In addition, graduate school admissions boards look very highly on study abroad experiences. Many students that obtain a bachelor of science in paralegal studies, an American Bar Association-approved program, use their degree as a pre-law program so they can go on with their education and become attorneys.

“Taylor, Samantha, Travis and Colleen deserve a lot of credit for their willingness to seek out new challenges and put themselves in academically challenging situations. They have represented The University of Toledo and the Paralegal Studies Program very well, and I could not be prouder of them.”

Samantha Denlinger, left, and Taylor Sanders, right, interned at Q-Free, where they worked with Tor Erik Nergård.

Schlageter secured internships for Anderson and Peterson with the Norwegian Courts Administration. They had the opportunity to become acquainted with the Norwegian society and the Norwegian legal system and judiciary; present on the state and federal judiciary in the U.S. to staff at the Norwegian Courts Administration; and present on the structure of the U.S. courts at a judicial regional seminar in Montenegro.

“This unique internship experience has not only given me the opportunity to integrate myself within another culture, but also to work firsthand within the Norwegian Courts Administration and gain knowledge about the Norwegian judiciary,” Peterson said. “By also attending a judicial reform conference in Budva, Montenegro, with the Norwegian Courts Administration to aid Western Balkan countries in improving their judiciary, I was able to speak with judges from many different countries and take back with me a lot of knowledge and experience that I will use in my future endeavors.”

Anderson also spoke highly of what she learned during her time in Norway: “I feel as though my perspective on the world and on the U.S. in particular has really been broadened. Seeing the way other countries run their judiciaries has taught me not to always assume that the way I’m used to is the only way, or even always the best way. To me, this trip only emphasized the importance of international sharing and collaboration. This internship has taught me the importance of being able to work both independently and with other people. It can be easy to decide that you’re a person who can only do one or the other. However, I think to truly be successful, a person needs to know when to focus independently on a project and when to reach out for input from others.

Travis Peterson, left, Audun Hognes Berg, senior adviser with the Norwegian Courts Administration, and Colleen Anderson smiled for the camera in Budva, Montenegro.

“My favorite part about the internship was attending a conference on judicial reforms hosted in the country of Montenegro. At the conference, the attendees spoke several different languages, and we utilized translators so we were all able to understand each other. Seeing this kind of problem solving and collaboration has really helped me realize the boundless possibilities that are available to those willing to pursue them. Participating in the conference itself was such an honor, and I feel as though I learned so much by listening to and conversing with other people who are in the same field I hope to enter one day.”

Denlinger and Sanders spent their summers interning with Q-Free, an electronic toll collection technology development company based in Trondheim, Norway. They reviewed proposed contracts, offers and bids to make sure they complied with Q-Free policies and interests, and learned about risk assessment, potential liabilities, commercial risks, legal feasibility and intellectual property rights protection.

“My favorite part about the internship was learning about the culture and comparing it to our culture back home,” said Denlinger. “The differences were incredible, and I loved seeing what the Norwegian work environment was like. It was truly an incredible experience.

“What I brought home with me was the knowledge of hard work. I learned that opportunities come and go, and that you have to take them whenever they come up. Specifically, I brought home a hard work ethic and the mentality of tackling an opportunity while it’s happening.”

Sanders was happy to speak on her time abroad and how it benefited her: “While working for Q-Free, I learned so much. I learned how to identify and assess potential risks and liabilities in different types of corporate contracts; I worked mainly with public procurement contract bids. The biggest thing I will take away from this experience is that it is important to dive in head first and try something you are unsure about. I’ve learned that no matter what country you are in, there is always a helping hand that will guide you through unfamiliar territory and topics.

“This was the experience of a lifetime, and I highly recommend traveling abroad to any other students contemplating it. I also want to give a little shout-out to John Schlageter, without whom this experience would not have been possible.”

For more information on the Paralegal Studies Program, contact Schlageter at john.schlageter@utoledo.edu or 419.530.7748.