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Every year the Caribbean Student Bar Association (“CSBA”) visits a neighboring Caribbean country in an effort build a bridge between FIU Law and a neighboring legal community. Over Spring Break 2016, CSBA members Courtney Bouillon, Janessa Brito, and Christavia Johnson joined CSBA President Nathalie Santos and  Public Relations Chair Rafael Ayala-Villalba on a trip to the Dominican Republic.  There, the students got a firsthand look at various aspects of that country’s educational and legal system.

The students shared a travel log of their experiences in the Dominican Republic:

Day One:

After months of coordination between CSBA President Nathalie Santos and Professor Blaurio Alcántara, the students arrive at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in the nation’s capital.  Members of the CSBA were received by students, alumni, faculty, Dean Antonio Medina, and Vice-Dean Dr. Fredy Angel Castro of UASD.   The CSBA students participated in a roundtable discussion where students from both universities expressed their concerns on current issues. CSBA also provided the students and alumni with information on the FIU Law LL.M program.

“The students and faculty at UASD treated us like family; it was as if we were one big legal community and their receptiveness to our concerns was comforting. We were able to discuss some very hot topics with comfort and without any hostility,” added Nathalie Santos.

Day Two:

CSBA members visited the Judicial College and the Court of Appeals.  Accompanied by UASD students Juan Diaz and Laura Vilorio, they  sat in on a hearing for bail in a domestic violence case, met the President of the Court of Appeals, and met the District Attorney of Santo Domingo.

CSBA members also visited the UASD Escuela Experimental, a K-8 school in Santo Domingo. CSBA had hosted a supply drive at FIU Law and provided the school with  three suitcases full of supplies. They donated to six classrooms, and supplied an entire faculty with t-shirts and office supplies.

Day Three:

Nathalie Santos and Janessa Brito visited the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic with UASD students Laura Vilorio, Smerly Rodríguez and Hernán Matos. The students’ visit was reported on the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic website.  You can see that report here.

Later that day Rusbel Sanchez Piña, President of the UASD Law Student Association and member of the Fundación Justicia y Transparencia (FJT), hosted a farewell reception for the members of the CSBA. They held a panel discussion where they explained the FJTs goal to combat political corruption in the Dominican Republic. The panel discussion was followed by a celebration where CSBA members were treated to sancocho, bachata, and typical Dominican beverages.

Members of CSBA built personal relationships with the students from UASD and are currently working on hosting them at FIU Law.

CSBA members Janessa Brito and Christavia Johnson were very glad to have had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic.  “Looking back on the valuable time spent in Santo Domingo, I remember the risks taken, friendships made and strengthened, unique adventures, and beautiful people we met along the way,” said Janessa Brito. Johnson agreed, adding, “Going to the Dominican Republic was truly and amazing and eye-opening experience. Being able to witness how the legal system works and learning the differences between our court system and laws and those of the DR gave me an invaluable comparative law experience that I may not have received otherwise.”

CSBA President Nathalie Sanots summed up the trip this way: “FIU strives to be Worlds Ahead and that’s what CSBA has accomplished on this trip. We believe education is the key to success and it was such a humbling experience to provide supplies for underprivileged children and talk to them about the importance of staying in school.”