Sunday, March 10, 2013

Life Updates: 2013 Edition

Dear readers,

I want to update you on a number of developments as of late that are exciting in the last few months! I know that of late I've been very busy and haven't been keeping this as up to date as I would like to.

First, I've started a really interesting law program with the Sorbonne in France. Their law program actually starts in undergrad, so to get an LLM, I will end up doing about 5 years worth of classes. Conveniently, I managed to navigate the French educational bureaucracy and not only properly apply for the program but also get accepted. What I can tell you is that this isn't exactly a simple task. FYI, if anyone needs help understanding how the French system works, please shoot me a message... with enough research it's usually possible to sort out anything and figure out what they want. (My strategy is to always go for overkill and send them more stuff than they probably actually need.)

Some of you are probably wondering how I can study in France if I'm still living in Maryland. I'm taking classes offered by the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne by way of their distance law program called CAVEJ (Le Centre Audiovisuel d'Etudes Juridiques). More confusingly, I'm actually doing that program through the national distance learning administration (CNED... Centre national d'enseignement à distance).

To register for this was a multiple step process:

  • Logged in online to the Sesame site and started the registration.
  • Printed the copy of the Sesame documents and mailed in translated copies of my high school diploma and college transcripts, French legal papers, passport/ID card, etc.
  • Waited for their response... which happily was that I was accepted!
  • Then I had to complete the Administrative registration with the University of Paris.
  • Once I sent in documents relating to my acceptance and a photo of myself, I received a student ID card and various related resources.
  • To register for classes, I registered with the CNED, my proxy for dealing with the CAVEJ, which provides the distance learning classes.
    • Why use CNED? When using CNED, you can do everything remotely, including signing up for classes (CAVEJ normally requires students to attend orientation in Paris) and you get more flexibility on turning in homework.
    • In order to register with CNED, I needed to include the proof of acceptance at the the University of Paris and payment in Euros.
  • I also had to fill out my report card with my information and mail it back to France along with stapled pictures and copies of all the acceptance documents again.
  • To accomplish the classwork, I have a DVD of MP3 lectures, books that contain the handouts for the classes, and a reading list of background reference materials. Additionally, the CAVEJ has an online site with recordings of student seminars and additional materials from the professors and forums to discuss the subjects.
  • The biggest difference from the US educational model I've been used to, is that the only grades that count are the final exams. The homework is merely a tool for you to practice, not something that is held against you. 
  • In order to take the exams, I actually have to travel to Paris for the time of the exams. I will have to report back later to let you know how they are. There are 3 hour written exams on the main subjects (Things like Constitutional Law, Civil Code, etc.) and 1 hour oral exams on most of the other materials.
  • Because I tend to be busy with all the things going on, I have a pattern of spending way too much on FedEx for priority international shipments... I've probably spent at least $250 in shipping stuff to France now... but I just recently discovered that as a USAA member, I can get a discount on this of potentially up to 36% on international shipping!
  • You'll be annoyed to know that after spending all this money on shipping, red tape, books from, and flying to Paris to take exams... I will probably still be spending less than the amount of money for a semester at a community college here in the US.
Anyhow, I'm fairly excited about this! As disorganized as I am, I'm listening to the lectures and I keep learning all sorts of random interesting tidbits about French and European law. Some of these include such things as:

  • The third French republic was designed to be possibly turned into a monarchy, and as a result the President had fairly broad powers. (Actually, there wasn't even really a constitution... but that's a whole other topic.)
  • There are a plethora of different levels of laws and regulations in the EU and France and an equal number of different types of courts. (Civil, Penal, Administrative, Business, Constitutional Council, EU treaty, EU Human Rights, etc.)
  • France doesn't have one supreme court like the USA... it's actually got at least 3, depending on the subject of the dispute.
  • The appeals process is completely weird. 
    • Every person has the right to have their case judged a second time if they don't like the outcome.
    • You can also appeal the judgment.
    • If it's possible that the judge misinterpreted the law, the case can be referred to the Cour de cassation... they are the closest thing to a Supreme Court. However, they only rule on the interpretation of the law. If they disagree with the previous court's interpretation, they issue their own interpretation and refer the case to another lower court. That court doesn't have to follow the opinion of the Cour de cassation... so if you don't like their ruling, you can go back to the Cour de cassation and see if they disagree with the other court. If they do, they'll issue another opinion and refer the case to yet another lower court, which this time is required to follow the opinion of the Cour de cassation.
  • Personal privacy is a core right and publishing personal details or even taking a picture of a person could land you in serious hot water if you don't have proper permission.
    • For example: if a magazine gets an interview with a person, we can presume that they have permission to post details based on that interview and a picture of the individual. However, let's say they wish to do an article five years from now... they can't reuse previously published material from that first interview without fresh consent from the individual in question.
    • If they don't, they can be fined (even punitively), the magazines could be confiscated, or the judge could require them to print a statement in a future issue based on a court order.
These are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head (and many of them are as a result, loose approximations). Honestly, I come up with something new and intriguing every time I listen to the lectures. A lot of the time my head is spinning because of the amount of exceptions or peculiarities to each subject. Apparently, it's not just me though... France actually has a court that exists to settle jurisdiction disputes between the civil and administrative courts. However, thankfully, the more I'm listening to courses, the more things are starting to turn into a system that makes sense and I'm looking forward to having a more complete knowledge in the next few months and years as the classes continue to progress.

The second piece of exciting news, is that I've started working for a really cool web design firm. I don't do anything coding or art related, but I help make sure that computers are running smoothly. I've been extremely busy since the day I walked in, because there is always something to do and it seems there is a new project every direction I look. I'm really enjoying being surrounded by art and design creatives, because to me that means a breath of life and fresh air. Also, there are many people who understand fashion and find it interesting. (In case you can't tell, I'm rather happy about this whole thing!)

Third, I'm continuing to grow as a person and have really been appreciating the efforts of my peers who grew up under similar fundamentalist backgrounds in helping me realize lies that I've believed for a long time and working on sorting out the truth from the pernicious legalism that seeks to make life a prison. I'll probably be blogging more on this and potentially doing some activism to help make sure the next generation has a better experience! I want to give a special shoutout to my friends Rachel L., Hännah, Caleigh, etc. whose blogs and personal conversations off the record have been extremely meaningful and enlightening to me. Also, my girlfriend has some very balanced perspectives, as she grew up outside the crazy bubble. While my experience was fairly non-extreme compared to many, a lot of similarities exist and I'm only now fully realizing how bizarre my sense of 'normal' has been warped with the proper comparison to common sense. I find that I'm also meeting all sorts of exciting new people and running into other blogs that are really brilliant!


  1. I look forward to reading more!

  2. Lots of exciting stuff happening for you! Looking forward to following you on this journey :)

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