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International Sustainable Development Projects FAQ

Who is eligible to participate?

J.D. students and MIA/J.D. students are eligible to apply. Applicants must have completed at least two semesters of the J.D. program. Applicants must be willing to commit to a one year course of study including consecutive spring and fall semesters.  Interested MIA students not enrolled in the joint MIA/J.D. and LL.M students are encouraged to contact Professor Jeff Erickson.

How many credits are available?

The Clinic will be three credits per semester. The summer practicum is appointed one credit to minimize students’ costs over the summer, while adhering to Penn State policy for University-related student travel.

I don’t have an engineering background.

No problem. One of the paramount goals of HESE and the Clinic is to bring together students from diverse areas of study. As industries in our increasingly global society become more specialized, we must foster skills that allow specialists in different fields to communicate effectively. Each specialist adds a unique perspective to the project team’s work. Appreciating and affirmatively seeking varied perspectives are essential elements of working together with peoples of different cultures.

Do I need to speak a foreign language?

Proficiency of some degree in a particular foreign language is not a requirement, but it may be an advantage.

Selection criteria

The ISDP Law Clinic seeks students with a compelling interest in humanitarian work, a record of academic success, and life experiences to bring to bear on interdisciplinary projects.

How will the Clinic operate?

Students will be required to participate regularly in one associated HESE course. In addition, students will collaborate with the Clinic supervisor and advisors. Students should expect to work with a mentoring attorney or legal expert on the ground in the host country. Students’ work product will be developed in concert with project goals and students’ interests.

Will I get to travel?

Hopefully. Summer travel naturally depends on the Clinic’s projects and project goals. We expect to have discussions with project partners and seek to collaborate with legal experts in country. While email may be sufficient for some communications, face-to-face meetings are particularly important in the development arena for building trust and rapport, and for efficiency. “Ground-truthing” is an important aspect of this multidisciplinary collaboration. Travel to the host country informs students’ sense of context and allows appreciation of finer details that come only from first hand observation.  Having – prior to travel – identified many legal issues through both a comparative law approach and direct research, law students will benefit from close observation of projects in progress coupled with a view of those projects in the context – environment, geography, demographic, language, and cultures. 

Will I need a visa?

Most likely. Particulars of travel will depend on the particular host nation as well as your own status. The University Office of Global Programs will help assure all requirements for travel abroad are met.

What will living conditions be like in host countries?

Basic. Establishing rapport with communities in less developed countries requires trying to understand and appreciate their perspective. Substantial inequality in living conditions is not conducive to those goals. Students should expect that their basic needs will be met, but “creature comforts” likely will not be available. Of course, students’ room and board arrangements depend on the specific project and role within that project.

Is funding available to offset the costs of summer travel?

Students should not anticipate that funding will be available to offset costs of traveling. Clinic faculty will endeavor to secure grants to apply to student travel; however, this grant funding is uncertain. Students are highly encouraged to research and apply for individual student grants and scholarships.