American Language Program: Marlene

by Marlene Cervantes LL.M. ’19



The decision to apply to an LL.M. program has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. The thrill started when I received the acceptance letter for Columbia Law School. I remember having a mix of emotions I have never felt before; I was excited and happy but at the same time anxious and nervous for the lifetime experience I was about to have. My acceptance to Columbia Law School was conditioned with the enrollment in an intensive language program, a condition that I thought would be a troublesome for me to accomplish. Nevertheless, the EPP program absolutely proved me wrong; I can actually affirm that my transition to New York and into Columbia Law School would not have been the same if I didn’t enroll in the program.


The EPP program by far exceeded my expectations; it is a very complete program wherein students from all around the world have (in most cases) their first interaction with the American education system as well as to Common Law concepts. During my first week I had problems getting used to the classes as I come from a Civil Law System and as the education system in Mexico differs in certain aspects from the American, but as the days passed by, I was amazed how the program was built in a manner that lead us to perfectly understand the concepts and practice all aspects of our English skills. When I enrolled in the course, I thought that it would be an English course with only some legal terms involved. My mind was blown when I discovered that we would be taking Law classes such as Criminal and Constitutional Law, Torts and Intellectual Property, taught by actual law professors from CLS.


Also, not only did we have classes that gave us an introduction to American Law and prepared us for the LL.M., we also had a couple of field trips that contributed to what we were taught in class. The experience of meeting an Assistant District Attorney and Judge Denny Chin (Judge for the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit) was unforgettable. We had the opportunity to witness two different trials and a voire dire (the moment where jurors are selected), which helped me understand better the criminal and civil procedures in America. Also, something remarkable of the field trip was that we were invited to Judge Chin’s chambers; it was incredible to see the Judge’s commissions in paper signed by Presidents Clinton and Obama as well as other paintings, photographs, and objects that Judge Chin kindly showed us. It was an experience that I am sure not many people are able to have.



One of the aspects I will most cherish from the course is the people I met and the friendships I built. The networking experience started from day one of the program. Being in a small class of fifteen students made it easier to get to know each other. I was fascinated with the professional background of my classmates. Our professor organized an activity that allowed us to get to know our different cultures, and it was wonderful to see how, for example, a Japanese greeting differs from a Mexican greeting. I was stunned with the politeness of such culture. It was wonderful that we could notice that we come from such diverse places but in the end have a lot in common.


I had the opportunity to learn from these cultures inside and outside the classroom. We discovered New York together; we got the chance to learn how the subway works and where we should buy groceries; and also, we enjoyed a month of summer, visiting a couple of rooftops, enjoying great restaurants from Restaurant Week, running in Central Park and Riverside Park, and visiting different museums and exhibitions. 



Since the EPP program ended, I am more than excited to start this new adventure in one of the world’s most important universities. Feeling more comfortable with the language, I am prepared to make this year an unforgettable experience that will for sure make me become a better lawyer and person.



Marlene is a Mexican LLM student who received her law degree from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. In Mexico she practices corporate and finance law.