Joe Stefanelli has been around the world as a Seton Hall Law Student. It has changed his course of study, and probably, his life.
What sparked your interest in international law?
When I first started at Seton Hall Law I was quite convinced that I would just do my work and get through school, in a way flying under the radar. Then, I met Professors Glynn, Azmy, and Boon in the Law in Italy program during my first summer and in the winter program in Zanzibar I met Profs. Freamon and Defeis. It is hard to put into words the way that interacting with these professors, among others, has changed my anticipated course in law school, each have gone out of their way to help me find my path in law. Especially Professor Freamon, I can't say enough about his mentoring and the incredible opportunities that have come as a direct result of his tireless efforts to help myself and any other students who have come to seek guidance from him.
How have the study abroad opportunities enhanced your study of the law?
The first summer I participated in the Italy Program. Studying and living in Parma was a great experience. During that summer I took Comparative Constitutional Law and Comparative Employment Law. I benefited immensely from both courses. I first learned about the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) from a speaker Prof. Boon brought to us in Italy, which spurred my interest in International Criminal Law. The next year I went to Cairo where I had the opportunity to intern at the Forced Migration Refugee Center. This was a life-changing experience because I was able to change the lives of Iraqi refugees by helping them to submit their cases for resettlement, where they would have had no legal assistance without the office. I was also fortunate to participate in the Zanzibar program which focuses on slavery and human trafficking. The program in Zanzibar provides such a beautiful yet historical backdrop for this incredibly relevant topic.
You interned in Spring 2009 at United Nations International Tribunal for Rwanda, how did that happen?
It all started when I visited the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania during the Zanzibar program in 2007-08. There I met Judge Taghrid Hikmet who informed us of internship opportunies and offered to help anyone who was interested. She also extended an open invitation to visit her in Jordan. A few months later, after finishing my work in Cairo, I was planning to travel through Jordan on my way to Syria and Lebanon with some friends, so I emailed the Judge, who invited us for lunch at her house and a tour of Amman. We enjoyed a home-cooked traditional meal, and had a great tour of the city and then met later for tea and shisha at her son's cafe.
I had decided to apply to the ICTR in May 2008 and found out I was accepted in June while I was in Cairo. After visiting the Judge in July, I found I would be working in Chambers. I started in January 2009 and will remain through June. Currently I am assigned to Judge Byron, the President of the ICTR where I worked on an important case involving high level government officials. I have already had the opportunity to draft decisions on some key motions and present my drafts directly to the Judges. Life in Arusha involves a whirlwind of working full days and spending time with the other interns (from all over the world) and the very friendly Tanzanians, as well as some great opportunities to travel to beautiful and culturally diverse places all over Africa on the weekends. I highly recommend applying to intern here to anyone interested in international criminal law; it is a very worthwhile experience.
How would you describe the culture at Seton Hall Law?
I think every student when starting at a new school normally finds the people with whom they are going to be friends almost naturally based upon similar interests, but at SHU I found my friends in all different circles. I find that people from different backgrounds with different career aspirations all seem to feel very welcome here and I have quickly formed what seem destined to be long lasting friendships with people who I may not have even met elsewhere.
What are you looking to do once you graduate?
I hope that whatever I end up doing eventually leads me to working as a law professor, maybe even at Seton Hall Law. I would love to someday be able to guide the next generation of students as the professors here have done for me. It is through classes and the interaction with professors that I have discovered my love for law, and how I realized how much I enjoy writing. I would like to be able to give future students the opportunity to have the same kind of experience as I have had.