Studying the Influence of the International Legal System on Human Rights

              My name is John Bazant and I am a senior at the University of Montana majoring in Anthropology and Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. During my time with Franke Global Leadership Initiative I followed the inequality and human rights global theme, this in turn allowed me to study in Morocco at Al Akhawayn University. In addition to all of the usual characteristics that one would likely experience during a study abroad program, I was also able learn and experience the relevance and importance of International Law within human rights and inequality.

One program that I was fortunate enough to take part in looked at the history and role the international legal system through its conception into the modern day.

During this program we further examined the types of hierarchies that can be created throughout such international legal systems and the inequality that can take shape. Because of an unequal concentration of power between states this hierarchy is then incentivized to further perpetuate an imbalance. All of this running in direct contrast to the major benefits that the international legal system accomplished.

One case study that was used for such discussions was Morocco. The geographical placement and history of Morocco illuminates the country at the intersection of many different influences that have in turn interacted in such a way that show the stark differences Idyllic conception and brutal reality that faces the international legal system.

Throughout this program thanks the to the GLI organization and my professors at AUI my overall understanding of international law and the effect that it can have on the human rights and inequality has vastly expanded.  

Wilderness and Civilization Program

My passion for the earth has been a driving force for choosing my college, area of study, and goals post-graduation. When I heard about the Wilderness and Civilization program, I was so excited at the possibility of being able to spend a semester combining my passions with being outdoors, with education and my GLI theme of inequality and human rights. I wanted to explore my own relationship with nature and drive into how to make it accessible to everyone. The outdoors brings people together in way that is hard to match. Combining social work, journalism and my passion for the environment throughout this program has been an amazing opportunity.

Throughout this program I had went on multiple camping trips, filled with art, hikes, conversations and learning. The classroom learning was extremely eye opening in partnership with these adventures. Throughout this semester I dove into my personal ethics surrounding nature. Here is an excerpt from my writing on my code of ethics, “My definition of wilderness and personal ethics surrounding it is constantly evolving and has pushed me to reevaluate my relationship to the lands I take up space on. At the core of my personal ethics is decentering humans from being the main focus of the earth, broadening the scope of wilderness from only capital W wilderness to all forms of connection to the earth and acknowledging that pristine wilderness is an idea of colonialism and doesn’t not accurately represent American under the care of Indigenous peoples.” This exploration of my ethics directly related to my theme in GLI.

Lyon: Culture, Politics, Mice and City Bikes

Salut tout le monde! 

I was fortunate enough to spend fall semester in Lyon, making trips as well to places around France, the UK, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. My GLI Global Theme is Culture and Politics, with my challenge being to assess the ways in which multilateralism can be channeled into environmental sustainability efforts. I felt privileged to be taking classes on pertinent topics such as fascism, international criminal law, comparative constitutional law and others, the perfect opportunity to explore culture and politics while away. The French are characteristic debaters, with the expressions “in fact”, “but”, “honestly” or “I find” at the start of every other sentence. I felt like I arrived during such a period of flux for the EU; with the war in Ukraine, the death of the Queen, a couple of new UK PMs, and elections around the EU resulting in the rising far-right favor (Sweden, Italy), and of course the World Cup hot off the press in my time in France, there was much to discuss. 

(Buzzing streets after Morocco made it to the semi-finals, widely celebrated in Lyon due to the prevalent Northern African population in France. Such a historic moment, so cool to witness!)

Despite the French being classic debaters, I didn’t find that much was open for discussion in class. A lot of what professors had to say about cultures other than their own seemed broad-brush-y or “cancellable” from my perspective, had the same thing been said by an American professor. I have a few friends who walked out of class one day (in classic French “spirit of resistance” fashion) in the absence of the space for discourse. They left to demonstrate that there are other points of view that might’ve had different and potentially more respectful or informed points to contribute.  I struggled with the fact that there wasn’t room to be Socratic about certain statements that were made. Still, the intriguing subject matter of most of my classes kept me engaged, and feeling fortunate for the opportunity to observe the delivery of such information from a different cultural standpoint or method. 

It was interesting to witness how much better-ingrained issues of sustainability are in daily life in France. The indisputability of climate change, or more specifically, the importance of sustainable practices in transport, food systems and more was refreshing, and spoke to the feasibility of models that could help the United States achieve greater levels of sustainability.  Most of the produce displays in grocery stores listed the product’s origins, with many markets carrying only produce within France, or even the region; a lot of the markets carried exclusively fruits and vegetables in season. You could certainly get your hands on more exotic items like kiwis or avocados, but the simple listing of this information by the producer increases a more sustainable ethic around consumption in France. Not all of the fruit is picture perfect, reducing the amount of food wasted. Public bikes and other modes of transit abound, relieving people of  reliance on cars to get from place to place. There were days each week where you might find the city lights dimmed, part of Emmanuel Macron’s new ‘energy sobriety’ program, which is commendable, given most (69%) of France’s energy grid is powered by nuclear in the first place. 

(My roommate Carlota and I on our way home, via city bike)

Life in France required far more self-advocacy than I was used to in my hometown of Missoula, where I can comfortably bumble through life with my hands tied behind my back and blindfolded. I had been warned of the bureaucratic throes of France, and expected to be challenged. Challenges presented themselves when I’d find mice in my hundreds-of-years- old-apartment, have to tell a French ER doc what happened with my simple language skills, or asking if a menu item contained gluten (everything in France contains gluten). Learning to articulate my needs, whether it be dietary, school-related, interpersonal, or professional in French was an added challenge- but one that made success doubly rewarding when things worked out. To be an effective leader, one that represents and protects others, I believe self-advocacy is a crucial first step which allows us to remain consistent with our beliefs and needs in the face of challenges. I’m grateful to have had the chance to hone this skill! 

Coming out of this experience and during, I’ve wondered  how to translate what I learned into my life at home and onward. I can’t constantly hijack conversations and talk about my study abroad experience, but I can do my best to replicate the moments, practices and experiences I had in France here at home. I hope to continue my language practice, experience and create more art, slow down every once in a while, walk more, consume thoughtfully, congregate and dissect social and political issues with my friends, maybe over a glass of wine.  I read a collection of essays by Umberto Eco for my fascism class in France- in light of the aforementioned rising prevalence of far-right political regimes in Europe and the U.S. alike right now, Eco argues that one of the best prophylaxis is facilitating the international student experience. While we, and other students abroad might think that parties, outings, dinners and what have you are not much deeper than plain fun, they are also cultivating a Europe and a world that will continue to embrace multiculturalism. Eco suspects that we will befriend, marry and remember people from abroad and the ways they’ve impressed upon us. Indeed, it will be impossible to see others and the world in the dimensions you might’ve seen them in previously. The people I spent every day with who started as strangers now fit comfortably in the role of old friends, whose gifts I’ll always carry with me. 

Min tur til Danmark

Hello! My name is Amelia Hawes, and I studied abroad in Aarhus, Denmark for fall 2022. My global theme was culture and politics. My global challenge was, how can criminal justice policy be used to benefit society?

I am interested in the American criminal justice system, and one of the reasons I chose to study in Denmark was that it is ranked as having one of the best, if not the best, criminal justice system in the world. The U.S. criminal justice system is discriminatory, corrupt, and ineffective, and I wanted to learn about the policy differences in a country with a globally acclaimed justice system.

During my time in Denmark, I learned about their criminal justice system, but I also learned about Danish history, culture, language, government, and more. I took a class on restorative justice, and my professor was a victim-offender mediator for the Danish police and a researcher on the South African truth and reconciliation process. Throughout the class, we learned about the relationship between restorative justice and punishment, how restorative justice is practiced in Denmark and other countries, and how to mediate conflicts using the restorative justice approach. It was an incredible privilege to learn from my professor, Christian (students in Denmark call professors by their first names), and gain hands-on experience practicing restorative justice. After taking this class I am more aware of the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating restorative justice into the formal criminal justice system, and I think it is a practice that the U.S. criminal justice system should incorporate.

Me and my Danish friends
A sunrise in downtown Aarhus

I had so many amazing experiences throughout this semester, but a few stand out in particular. I was present in Denmark during a general election, and I got to accompany my Danish friends to the town hall when they submitted their ballots. It was a bit surreal to witness this election because it was so different from presidential elections in the U.S. The candidates in the Danish election are all advertised in the same way, so every candidate had a poster in the same format as the others, but with a different color scheme for the party they belonged to. It was refreshing to see this type of egalitarian advertising, as opposed to the smear campaigns and expensive television and social media advertisements in U.S. elections. Denmark is a multi-party system, so there were many different candidates in the running. While there are heated political debates and tensions between different parties, Danish people tend to be private about their political beliefs and voting choices, and the social atmosphere around the election was very civil–a completely different experience than I am used to as an American.

I also got to celebrate Christmas with my Danish friends, and I cooked a traditional American Thanksgiving feast for them in November. On Christmas, Danes eat a big feast with boiled potatoes, duck, sugar browned potatoes, cabbage, brown gravy, pickles, and sometimes rye bread and fish. There were vegetarians at our Christmas dinner, so we cooked a vegetarian rendition of this traditional feast. Around the holidays Danes love to drink glogg, which is a sweet mulled wine with spices. After Christmas dinner, Danes eat rice pudding with cranberry sauce called risalamande. There is a whole almond hidden somewhere in the risalamande, and everyone competes to find the almond. I was the one to find the almond, which was a fun surprise. Then, after dinner everyone sings songs and dances around the Christmas tree. We didn’t have a Christmas tree, but we all held hands and ran around our apartment complex while we sang a traditional Christmas song. It was a cozy evening that perfectly embodied the Danish idea of hygge, which basically means the practice of coziness and togetherness during the dark winter months.

Me after finding the almond in the risalamande

This experience changed the way I view my own culture as an American. It made me realize how absurd it is that the U.S. has barely any public transportation, because in Denmark I could use a bus, a tram, a train, or a bike to get anywhere inside Denmark or even around Europe. Most Danes don’t own cars, and many don’t even have driver’s licenses. It was such a luxury to have a well-developed network of public transportation at my disposal. In Denmark healthcare is also free, as is university tuition; in fact, college students are paid by the government to go to school. They have to pay this money back over the course of their lifetime through high tax rates, but it means that no one has medical or student loan debt, which drastically improves their quality of life compared to Americans. Danish people find it absurd that getting sick can bankrupt someone, but in the U.S. that is a very real fear we have to live with, and I think that is deeply wrong.

I am so grateful for the memories I made in Denmark, the friends I met, and the perspective I gained on my own culture and identity. I hope to visit Denmark again someday, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying in Europe. The people are kind, there are so many fun things to do, and Danish culture and society are rich and interesting.

The iconic canals in Copenhagen

A Fall in Dublin

Hello! I’m Jacob Owens, and I’m a senior at the University of Montana, who’s been studying journalism for the last four years. My GLI theme is politics and culture, which I got my share of last fall, while I interned in Dublin, Ireland. I interned at Babylon Radio, where I wrote articles and hosted a weekly radio show. I learned a bit more about Ireland and its people each time I interviewed someone. I wrote primarily about marginalized people like those without homes, Ukrainian refugees and people who have secondary breast cancer. These types of stories have obvious cultural and more subtle political implications. One story with a direct political connection involved a website Dublin set up to assist newly arriving Ukrainians. This is when I talked with the Lord Mayor of Dublin. My GLI theme also applied to what I gave to the people of Dublin. My radio show provided listeners with American music every Wednesday night, so while my work informed me about Ireland’s culture and politics, I also shared a bit of my own culture.

Ireland is not vastly different from the United States, but I did not need a completely different place to learn a lot about myself. How do you start over again and make friends in a different country? How do you respond to getting off on the wrong foot with your boss? And how do you conduct yourself when you’re an ocean away from home, in a place where no one has preset ideas about who you are? None of the questions above have a single solution but navigating those situations taught me about the person I am and would like to be both professionally and socially. 

I did not see myself as the traditional leader while abroad. My roles were that of student, intern, flatmate and friend, but I did have smaller scale moments of leadership. For one, I learned how to stick to my guns when repeatedly challenged by a superior. I also found that being a leader involves knowing when you are not the right person to take charge. Lastly, leading can be a quiet act, like being kind, friendly and accepting people for who they are. People with those leadership skills are who society needs for the 21st century. I thoroughly enjoyed my time abroad, but I am left with some lingering questions like how would Ireland have been different had English not been the primary language? Did I go to enough pubs? And should I have tried harder to befriend Dubliners? 

My time abroad is like a collage of memories. I can picture the lush landscape of Ireland with towns like Wicklow, the Cliffs of Moher to go along with Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. Then there’s the memories I made alone during weekend trips around the United Kingdom and greater Europe. I visited Scotland, Wales, London, Paris and Italy! Perhaps the most memorable trip was going to Rome over Halloween, which I decided to do less than a week before. Roma, which seems more like a museum than a metropolis, gave me a memory that sums up my time overseas. My first night there, I was a bit confused and looking for a bus stop to get to my hotel with no knowledge of Italian. Luckily an Italian woman nearby took pity on me, took my hand and guided me to the correct bus stop. People in the world are good if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, get embarrassed a bit and go see what is out there.

Sveiki from Lithuania!

My time in Vilnius, Lithuania has been one of the best and worst times of my life. I met the most amazing people and saw amazing history and sights, but I also missed my family and friends, and felt isolated at times.

My GLI Global Theme is Inequality and Human Rights. While in Vilnius, I participated in a student-organized protest in solidarity with women in Iran, did research on LGBTQ+ in Lithuania (Lithuania is deeply conservative), and visited several museums on the occupations and murders of Lithuanians, especially Jewish Lithuanians. One of my goals for studying in Lithuania was to learn history from the point of view of the oppressed, and I think I was able to do that here. I also met with many like-minded people from other countries, and learned how they do activism there – specifically in Germany.

I was very aware I am American. I met maybe five Americans in all of Lithuania, though there were probably more. I was constantly reminded by others around me that I am American. It was funny but a little tiring to me that whenever I said I was from the US, people would often launch into a criticism of the US. It was fine, but it happened a lot. I also enjoyed Lithuanian food (a lot of potatoes and meat) and culture. Someone described Lithuanians as a “country of introverts,” which seemed accurate to me. People often said Lithuanians were cold, but I didn’t think so. Lithuanians don’t smile to strangers or make eye contact in public. But every Lithuanian I met was very kind with their gestures when I needed help. The cashiers would ask the people behind me if they had a loyalty card so that I could get a discount at stores, and the people just handed them over. That was incredibly surprising to me, and really nice. I think it will be hard for me to adjust to smiling to strangers again, it felt like a relief not to have to smile awkwardly at people you pass by on the sidewalk.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. It was my first time living on my own so far away from anyone I knew. I stayed in the dorms my freshman year, but I have been living at home since the start of the pandemic. I also had to cook for myself in Vilnius and had no supplies, so it was a little difficult for a while. I had a few bumps in the road, but I overcame them and have more confidence in myself, which is one of the main things I needed to work on in leadership. I learned how to navigate intercultural exchanges on a daily basis with many different cultures, and people very different from myself. I am so grateful for this experience.

Organic Farming in Patagonia

Buen Día de La Granja Rocksheim! On the small organic farm where I spent three months as an intern, I experienced firsthand how the relationship between people and the technology they have access to differs vastly in Argentina versus the United States, which directly impacts resource use. Thus, this internship tied directly into my global theme, technology and society, and my global challenge, resources and sustainability. As these topics intertwined, I observed many principles of the circular economy model, even though the flow of Argentinian technology and resources through society overall is still linear.

Most people in Argentina don’t have access to technology we take for granted in the US such as the latest iPhone, reliable electricity, or clothes dryers. Because new technology is not available, people repair and reuse what they have instead of buying something new simply because it exists. Therefore, it is common to see cars from the 1980s and 1990s ambling around dirt roads. Their engines shudder and their brakes squeal, and their owners learn to repair them themselves to avoid the expenses of a mechanic. As a result, consumer demand for new resources is much lower and resources are used at a more sustainable pace. It isn’t exactly a circular economy, but valuing recycling and longevity of products is a step in that direction.

Below is the old farm van, used every week to deliver pollos, huevos, and other goods to the farm’s clients.

Living in a society with a “repair and reuse” relationship with technology instead of one in which the fanciest, newest technology is constantly sought out made me realize how toxic materialism is in the United States. While the Argentinian relationship with technology is a result of general poverty and not to be romanticized, some aspects are a good model for the circular economy. While taking apart a fence on the farm, I was instructed to save the half-rotten posts and rusted sheet metal and wire to be re-used. The farm owners lamented that the plastic cloth and chain-link fencing were too destroyed after years of service to be reused. I spent hours carefully sorting out all the materials and moving them under the trees to be stored safely for later use. When wire was needed to repair a fence, or sheet metal was needed to build a new roof for the pig enclosure, we would look first to the resources we already had.

The pictures below shows how palets were repurposed in a fence for the sheep pasture, an air b-n-b made from shipping containers, and a small earthship community.

True sustainability also existed on the farm: waste from the chickens and hens was valuable manure for the vegetable garden, and weeds from the vegetable garden were fed to the hens. Meat from the chickens, eggs from the hens, and veggies from the garden provided energy for farmworkers to care for all three. Many such ecosystem-like energy transfers existed on the farm to realize sustainable resource use.

Below are some thriving arvejas (peas), whose beds I dutifully cleared and fertilized before planting, and some repollo (cabbage) which survived the winter.

I usually consider myself a resourceful and sustainability-minded individual. I’m accustomed to composting my apple cores and checking plastic types to correctly sort my recycling. But the extreme reuse of materials in Argentina made me realize how lack of new technology lowers resource demand; if new technology isn’t available, people will reuse what they have out of necessity. In a circular economy, the purpose isn’t to grow and expand wealth, and Argentinian attitudes toward resource use are a clear example of why this is key to the circular economy model. The irony in Argentina, however, is that the lack of rapid expansion comes from lower socioeconomic standing.

After my internship, I was also able to spend some time camping and climbing in Frey, a couloir surrounded by incredible granite spires. I befriended climbers from all over the world and climbed Torre Principal with a few of them.

A South American Adventure: 12 weeks studying Spanish and journalism in Buenos Aires

Hello to all from chilly Missoula, Montana — quite a bit colder than Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I recently spent 12 weeks as a newspaper intern, soaking up all I could of the beautiful South American country. My name is Addie Slanger and I am a Franke Global Leadership Initiative graduate with a theme of Politics and Culture. In Argentina, I interned for Que Pasa Noticias Zona Norte, a newspaper covering the wider Buenos Aires province.

While in Buenos Aires, I focused on a series of stories about international holidays and how they related to Argentina and the U.S., as well as conducted a semester-long audit of my organization’s social media. As my Spanish proficiency grew, I graduated into more complicated stories and news coverage. I was able to use the expertise I gained in school and apply it in real life, in a totally different environment than I was used to. As a graduate of UM’s journalism and Spanish programs, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to integrate the skills I’ve cultivated over the last four years of my undergrad. And the experience proved to be incredibly valuable. Although I was certainly not breaking international news or interviewing celebrities, I gained significant insight from my editors and improved my Spanish language skills more I ever had before, learning how to communicate and convey intricate concepts to an international audience. 

Living in a city with 12 times the population of Montana (yes, the entire state) — and working in an industry that pushed both my professional skills and language comprehension — was an indescribable asset for my personal, professional and academic development. Along with satisfying the last requirements for my GLI certificate, the internship was a perfect synthesis of my love of journalism and Spanish, and a way to explore a part of the world I’ve never seen before. 

My experience in Argentina perfectly exemplified my GLI concentration. My understanding of both the politics and culture of this country (and their contextualization in comparison to the U.S.) grew latently as I lived, worked and traveled there. Since both are so inherent to everyday life in a country, there was no doubt in my mind I’d reap generous rewards from this experience in regards to my global theme. And my internship paid off in dividends as well. Though I myself was not writing big news stories, I was sure to consume them daily, to stay on top of current events and ensure I was properly educated on the state of things there. Each and every day I engaged in conversations — with my host and her friends, my coworkers, my Argentine and international friends — that greatly augmented my understanding of culture (and politics as an element of culture) in Argentina.

As a direct result of this experience, I became more broadly informed, a more adept communicator, and more globally conscious, key objectives of the GLI program and absolutely essential in the functioning of a productive and ethical society. I’m excited at the possibility of taking what I’ve learned and using it to inform my future studies, bringing an internationally literate point of view and an ability to communicate nuanced, multicultural perspectives to each relevant situation.

Exploring the Nature of the West from Rankin Hall

By Sarah Griffin

Cordiales saludos to all from Costa Rica’s Pacific side! My name is Sarah Griffin and I was a member of the Resources and Sustainability GLI group that graduated this past May. I was also one of the many GLI members whose Beyond the Classroom experience was thwarted by the pesky Covid-19 pandemic.

Initially, I was devastated by this loss. As a Spanish major and Environmental Studies minor, I had been anticipating my travels through Central and South America for years. I had serious doubts that any “at-home” version of said experience could come close to replacing it. But as soon as I stopped trying to turn my apple into an orange, a world of opportunity opened up before me, all from the comfort of 101 Jeannette Rankin Hall.

I took an internship with Camas Literary Magazine of the Environmental Studies grad program. Founded by graduate students at the University of Montana in 1992, Camas is a student-run biannual literary magazine that aims to “cultivate fresh ideas and perspectives while remaining rooted in the landscapes and traditions of art and literature in the American West.” Their mission is to provide an opportunity for emerging writers and artists to publish their work alongside established voices while celebrating the land that connects us all. And that’s exactly what it did for me.

I was motivated to work for Camas because I am a nature writer myself. I have been copywriting for businesses for roughly two years, but I had never worked in print. While interning with Camas, I learned the ins and outs of print publication as well as improved my writing, editing, and critical thinking with thanks to the variety of work that was submitted. Whilst honing these skills I also got my foot in the door by rubbing elbows with renowned writers in the field.

In addition to the nuts and bolts of developing a magazine issue, I learned from the experiences of my peers: how they came to be editors, how they find publications to contribute to, how they pitch themselves, which programs one should have fluency in, and how they balance workload between pet writing projects, school, and day-jobs. It was challenging to work with a media as subjective as art and literature, but it helped me identify and hone my leadership skills. I had plenty of practice in clear communication, humble expression of opinions, listening, follow-through, and self-direction.

Something I particularly enjoy about this Beyond the Classroom experience is how it related to my Global Theme of Resources and Sustainability. At first glance, one might think it’s a stretch to count working for a nature magazine as a project toward the conservation of resources and implementation of sustainable practices. But in all actuality, Camas (and things like it) are the genesis of all successful environmental work; they are a discussion forum for why people should and do care. Without personal connection, accounts of direct impact, respect, or admiration, no amount of science-based policy will drive sustainable adjustments to our ecocide-al lifestyles.

My understanding of the diverse perspectives related to environmental challenges such as resource use and sustainability were stretched by authors and artists that contribute to Camas from all over the world. Somewhere between Fundamentalist Mormons in the dessert of Utah having their worldview shattered by dinosaur bones in their backyard and the transcendental experience of photo-journaling Grizzlies hunting from an Alaskan stream during the salmon run, we all share common ground. The questions that arose from participating in the curation of Camas Spring 2022 boiled down to: Collectively, how do we decide what to do with this singular, precious piece of common ground?

As the seasons keep turning, I look forward to exploring this question with people who look, think, speak, and interact with their corner of this common ground wildly different than myself.

I am grateful for the ways in which GLI prepared me to do so. I wish you all curious minds and open hearts.

Chao for now,


Sláinte to Spending a Semester in Ireland!

In the spring of 2022, I studied abroad in Cork, Ireland. My Global theme connecting me to this experience was resources and sustainability. University College Cork was the first internationally recognized school to receive a Green Flag from the Foundation of Environmental Education, so I was able to learn a lot about the University’s perspective of sustainability and how we can apply these practices here at UM or within our individual lives. Most of my classes I took were science courses where I learned about Irish flora and the culture’s connection with the environment.  

I noticed during my time abroad that the Irish were much more in tune with each other and their environment than we are in the United States. Although there are many people who care deeply about other people and the environment in the U.S., this connection to things outside of yourself is deeply engrained within their culture as a sign of respect.  

I had the opportunity to meet many people from all over the globe and this has shaped my perspective of global issues and has pushed me to become a better leader in the aspect of confidence. One of my most fond memories will be competing for the University’s dance team and truly experiencing how the Irish celebrate(it goes on for days).