(From left to right) Sunny Gorba, Professor Michael Vitiello, Yanin Ortega, and Claudia Ricci are pictured in Sarnico, Italy. Photo courtesy of Sunny Gorba.

Two years ago, I would never have imagined that I would spend my first summer of law school galivanting across Europe as part of my legal education, but when a once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself, you got to take it.

My road to Salzburg, Austria began the day I received my acceptance letter to McGeorge School of Law. I was fortunate enough to receive the Anthony M. Kennedy Endowed Fellow Scholarship, which covered the cost of the Salzburg Study Abroad Program. I was thrilled, especially since my undergraduate study abroad opportunity in Mexico City had been cancelled due to the pandemic. In deciding to attend McGeorge, going to Salzburg seemed to be as much of a given as any of the required curriculum.

McGeorge student Sunny Gorba studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria. Photo courtesy of Sunny Gorba.

The internship component came as another surprise. While I had already begun to make plans for Salzburg, I was struggling to figure out what to do with my summer for the first five weeks. That all changed when Professor Michael Vitiello made a quick announcement before class that his friend, a professor in Italy, was seeking research assistants. After another relatively short conversation in office hours, I made my decision to go.

My internship in Parma, Italy taught me how to exist outside my comfort zone. The first challenge was getting there. I was overwhelmed by the connecting international flights, to a train, to desperately trying to get a taxi at 10 p.m. without being able to speak the language, to a hotel, to another taxi, to a train, and to another taxi. Somehow, I made it, but there were tears along the way and I began to question why I was there. Those fears faded when I met up with Yanin Ortega, my fellow research assistant. Lucky for both of us, Yanin and I got along really well. We basically spent every waking moment together from walking to work at the university, to finding lunch, and planning little excursions for the weekend.

The view from Monte Isola on Lake Iseo. Photo courtesy of Sunny Gorba.

Through the internship, I began developing my professional identity. After researching for Professor Stefano Maffei for four weeks, the internship culminated in assisting him conducting two seminars in Sarnico. One of the highlights of my experience in Europe was the first seminar focusing on Extradition. Yanin and I had the opportunity to listen to leading attorneys and scholars across the world discuss the state of extradition in their respective countries during the day. At night, we all took a private boat to an island and swam in the lake before having a private dinner on the island. In both seminars, I engaged with a wide variety of lawyers from across the globe and discussed aspects of our legal system.

The classes in Salzburg also informed my cross-cultural comparison. In both experiences, we discussed that while the Common Law and Civil Law systems seem diametrically opposed, we generally reach similar results. Still, the Freedom of Expression course explained how different systems that protect the same rights can be formed. Co-taught by Professor Bernhard Zagel, a local law professor, and Ninth Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, we were able to explore the different frameworks by experts in each system.

(From left to right) Yanin Ortega, Sunny Gorba, and Leon Schrofner, LLM ’23, at the Schonbrunn Palace Garden in Vienna, Austria. Photo courtesy of Sunny Gorba.

Overall, I am very grateful for the opportunity I received this past summer. Not only was I able to gain my first legal experience as an intern and take classes from incredible teachers, but I was able to experience living on the other side of the world. As someone who has never lived outside of the Sacramento area and hopes to remain here, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see a new part of the world. McGeorge School of Law is full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and I am grateful to have experienced one of my own.

By Sunny Gorba, a second-year law student at McGeorge School of Law.