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2011 LL.M. Class Commencement Address

Carla Wessolek

Carla Wessolek delivers the LL.M. Address

Carla Wessolek of Berlin, Germany, was chosen by the LL.M. Class of 2011, composed of 36 students representing 22 countries, to deliver the LL.M. Graduation Address at the May 11, 2011, Commencement Ceremonies. Following is the text of her address.

Class of 2011, family, friends and guests of the graduation. This is a special day, and I want to thank you all for celebrating it with us. It is my honor to speak in front of you today.

I always thought that commencement speakers were supposed to say something really inspiring and motivating, so I don’t exactly know why I got chosen to do this.

I do remember exactly the day that the LL.M. Class of 2011 met for the first time. It was on the first day of our three-week Introduction to American Law Program in mid-August of last year. I had arrived to Minneapolis from Berlin the night before. I was jet lagged and tired, and when Mr. Khary Hornsby explained that within the next three weeks we were going to go learn about American constitutional law, property law, criminal law and all kinds of things I was thinking "What have I gotten myself into?" It turned out I had gotten myself into one of the most memorable years of my life.

The LL.M. Class of 2011. There are 36 exceptional people without exception. 36 people from 22 different countries. People from diverse cultures with different backgrounds but all with the same wish that connected us as a group—the wish to study law in the United States. All of us already have at least one degree from our home countries. So, you might wonder, "Why did we want to continue studying and spent a fortune on school fees?" The answer is: because it was our dream. Our American dream was to study law in the U.S. We wanted to widen our horizons and take the unique opportunity to study abroad.

We are all really lucky to have found that law is something that we love to learn about and want to work with. Being able to study something that you love in a foreign country is a privilege that not many people get, and that is why I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to study here in Minnesota. Studying here was something special, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain an international view of law and the chance to compare it to what we already learned.

As we learned, studying here sometimes was not just a dream, but also a challenge. Studying a foreign law is difficult by itself, but we also studied it in a foreign language. I remember moments in class where I thought "I have no idea what the professor just said."

Another aspect that was hard to get used to was the never-ending winter. I mean it was actually snowing in mid-April! Or as my dear friend Betsy put it, "I feel like in Minnesota every season includes snow."

So yes, being here was difficult at times, but we all agree that it was one of the best decisions in our lives to come here. It was a unique and amazing chance to study here at the prestigious Minnesota Law School, and we are joyful about what we learned during the past year. We gained experiences in a great environment that cared about us and made us feel welcome.

I would like to express my gratitude to the professors. The professors at this law school do an outstanding job. I have never in my life met people who love so much what they are doing and who are so passionate about it. You exceeded any expectations that I had before coming here. It was an incredible experience to study in an atmosphere in which you never feel stupid when you ask a question and where teachers actually appreciate their students' thoughts. Thank you for always being so helpful, patient and nice. You made me and all of the LL.M students feel that we belonged here, and you showed us that coming here was the right decision, even at times when we might have had doubts.

I would also like to thank the rest of the staff of the U for always being so nice and helpful, and for providing us students with cookies throughout the whole year because that also made us really happy.

Thank you also to the American J.D. students. We are all grateful to have studied together with you. And a lot of you showed us that if you go out into this world with an open mind, an open heart, and a kind smile, you will receive the same in return. International students with different law backgrounds can learn a lot from each other and we should all remember that throughout our careers.

A lot of LL.M.s have family members and friends who came from their home countries to be here today. Thank you, we are happy to have you here!

Even though our families might not have been here during the last year they were still a very important part of our experience. It’s comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart. I would like to thank my family. Without your never-ending loving support I could have never done this.

And finally, I would like to thank the LL.M. Class of 2011. I feel honored to have spent an unforgettable year with so many great people. Congratulations to all of you and good luck for all your future plans, no matter where life takes you. Reach out high!

Thank you very much.