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On the Verge of Graduation

After a succession of semesters, graduation is finally just around the corner. The experience so far has been really gratifying. I must admit that I can’t help but feel some nostalgia for everything that I have left behind, but having said that, the sentiment that prevails over the others is gratitude and appreciation for a wonderful academic experience. It has allowed me to become a member of the big Penn State family and to participate in this community in the good and not so good moments that have impacted our University during the last few months.

What has motivated me to get my degree from Penn State

Penn State is one of the finest academic institutions worldwide, as you can read in countless rankings. That reputation was one of the key factors that personally contributed to my decision to get a degree offered by the University.

As indicated in previous posts, I have been working as a lawyer in my country of origin, Spain, for approximately fifteen years. Many of you probably wonder why I decided to pursue another program through a foreign university when I already have my law degree. I would mainly give two reasons to those who raised that question, both of them with the same weight and preponderance:

a) Legal Dynamism. The legal profession is no different from many other professions and involves constant learning to adapt to the different legislative changes and policies. Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times They Are a-Changing” is particularly true when it comes to law, which among other functions is a privileged tool for social change. It not only creates a frame for coexistence but also adapts and evolves as society does.

b) Comparative Law. For a long time, I have felt a great attraction to comparative law, which is the analysis of legal systems of different countries other than my own. In this case, the American legal system, with its traditional preponderance of case law, has deep differences with its counterparts of the continental Western European countries, in which the codified law plays a major role.

The above reasons have motivated me to move forward in my studies. Obviously there were moments that were difficult finding the proper balance between, on the one hand, my family and professional duties and, on the other, my academic obligations. Currently, the role played by my adviser and by each one of my instructors has been paramount. They have provided me with the flexibility that has ultimately allowed me to harmonize areas of my life, which in other circumstances would have created problems. Penn State distance education is designed to help facilitate a balanced life with academics. For that reason, I recommend that if for any reason you are facing a challenging situation that could potentially affect your academic performance, don’t hesitate to contact your adviser and professor to let them know.

 How to stay on track with your schoolwork

Out of all the study tips that I have used so far, organization would be the most important. It is important that at least two weeks before the semester begins you have textbooks and materials required to deal with the different courses. Once the semester has begun, it is vital to properly classify lessons, exercises, academic papers, and assignments in a proper fashion to ensure easy access.

My organization system.
My organization system.

In my particular case, I created a main file which is divided into folders and sub-folders containing the various documents. These are mainly in Word and PDF formats, which are automatically synchronized between my different computers that I use regularly either at home or at my office. Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, or similar enable hosting documents on the cloud feature that will also keep a local copy on your computer. For the organization of various materials, I also use software that allows me to label and tag documents according to different search parameters. This helps me process hundreds and hundreds of documents very easily. The possibility of having a single and permanently synchronized repository with all my documentation has permitted me to greatly enhance my work as a student. My academic information is just a click of the mouse or track pad away.

I hope the above tips are useful for the potential readers of this post. In my case, they have helped me greatly during these past semesters to walk my path from student to alumnus at Penn State.