So now that I got a name for my posts on law school experiences, its only proper to start the reflections for Ramadan with one that incorporates my experience with school thus far. All week I have been at Law School Orientation (LSO).
LSO has been intense, not the content of the workshops, but rather because of all the running around I have had to do for school. If you are applying to law school, I highly recommend not skipping out on your LSO. It’s probably the only time where you get to see everyone in your first year class. Each first year law class (1L) is divided up in sections and will spend all your times with the students in your sections- classes, legal writing class, study groups forming.
Which is actually another point, study groups are important, and you might be the sort that needs a study group to manage all the material covered, the LSO is the time to figure out who makes a good individual to be in your study group.
From what I have read and heard about law school, it’s an isolating experience and gets extremely lonely. If you aren’t ready for that, than the first semester- if not year- will be very difficult to cope with. You can’t socialize the way undergraduate years were. You hit the ground running, in fact, I have for my first day of classes over 100 pages of reading that I must be ready for.
Once the school semester begins, you won’t talk about getting to know your peers, rather everything will seemingly revolve around the 210k dollar experience you have signed on the dotted line for. LSO is your time to “have fun” and “socialize” with people who will make up your next 3 years of life experiences, as well as frame the professional corps of colleagues once you pass the bar exam.
But from my experience I highly recommend taking care of all your business before you get to LSO. I found myself having to hurdle over financial aid- in fact I spent hours on the phone with the Department of Education, with my undergraduate (UNDIE) loan servicers, with the financial aid office at Law School. I have come to love the financial aid folks at my school, they were immensely helpful and understanding. I had a heart attack when i saw the loan amounts for financial aid and had to sign my name on the promissory note. I have never seen that amount in my life, except at a CAIR Fundraising banquet, but yes it was immense.
Besides financial aid, I was buying books, figuring out supplements and outlines for my courses. I was figuring out my housing situation, buying a car because my car broke down and became ridiculously expensive to get fixed. I also was managing my budget. I highly recommend you create a budget for law school. The expenses are ridiculous and living without a budget is courting financial doom and disaster. I also was dealing with my religious obligations- Ramadan and Fasting. I will spend the rest of the post reflecting on this but all the above items I will expand upon as I experience more of what works and doesn’t work.
Its not a hidden fact that I am a fairly observant Muslim. I don’t think many of my classmates know that I am, which goes more to the fact that I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve. I am not interested in imposing my religious beliefs on the broader community. Religion is an important facet to who I am and guides my day-to-day life, but it’s surely not the only thing that makes me such a dastardly good-looking unique character!
But I haven’t been in school for over six years, so I experienced a bit of “culture shock” to the degree with which people drink alcohol and everything evolves around alcohol. Aside from law schools infamous “BAR REVIEWS”- the events have nothing to do with law school education, and everything to do with getting drunk and disorderly at a local bar; every social interaction has been around the idea of getting smashed or drinking beer.
Aside from the fact that I am fasting, I don’t drink alcohol. But being in this environment plays with my head. I found myself thinking about how I wanted to hang out with these folks and I could go and just drink soda or something. The toying around with my head was really difficult to deal with. I was fasting, breaking of the fast wasn’t until after 730, the socializing started at around 6. For an hour and half I could not drink anything so I would stand around and have to explain to people why. But the awkward position of being in a bar telling people I am an observant Muslim whose fasting, so couldn’t drink or eat anything, but then the scenario begs the question- well isn’t drinking alcohol against your religion?
Yes, by the way, the two things people probably know about Islam is that alcohol and pork are forbidden, “Allah’s curse will smite you down” if you touch the forbidden things- at least that’s how I thought of it as a kid. But the whole situation smacked of religious hypocrisy, so I decided that I couldn’t compromise myself, especially during this month of Ramadan, and go to these social gatherings. I am sure there are Muslims out there who don’t have the same strict religious observance as I do, so they might drink. Don’t hold them as an example of all Muslims, and don’t hold me as an example of all Muslims- we are each individual Muslims, as such allow us to have our individuality.
(I just pray that I would never come to a time in my life where I have to test myself with such a situation. The reality of the situation is that, there will be plenty of these opportunities, American business culture is premised on alcohol and getting drunk. I have heard of interviews for law firms taking place at bars over drinks. What a difficult set of circumstances!)
Besides the bar and drinking scene, I also realized to what extent my professional life was “Islamic culture sensitive”- A LOT! Meetings during Ramadan would not have food or drinks, as a show of respect to the Muslim participants. There were meetings where that wasn’t the case, but for the most part the majority of folks there were understanding so I did not have to explain I was fasting. Which was all the more awkward to have to tell people I am not going to eat during lunch, or during the welcoming breakfast for LSO events.
For the most part LSO was great, now its over with, which means I can begin to jump into the books and tackle Contract, Property, Civil Procedure, Torts and Legal Writing. To really benefit from the LSO experience you have to be there, so make sure you make yourself completely available to jump in and reap the benefit of your LSO events!