Reflections on Study Abroad: Isabel Thoma

Tech alumn Isabel Thoma wears a blue velvet sports coat with rolled up sleeves and stands in front of a modern backdrop
An orange patterned backdrop compliments the crushed blue velvet of Isabel's jacket

Isabel Thoma graduated from ATU in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing. She is in her second year of law school at the University of Arkansas and spent her first summer studying abroad. Study abroad is a new area of focus at Arkansas Tech in an effort to prepare students who can be leaders in the state, region and world. Isabel helps explain how the lessons she learned in England will help her be a better attorney in Arkansas.

What led you to seek a study abroad opportunity after your first year of law school?

Your first summer is when you get your job experience, and if you’re going to study abroad, that’s when you need to go. I thought, when else in my life am I going to have a chance to go abroad for a month and a half?

Where did you go, and what did you study?

The University of Arkansas School of Law partners with Cambridge Law [in England] and it’s a six-week program. We studied with world-class professors. I studied international dispute resolution, which I think is really interesting. And we go through the UN [United Nations] and how that works and the World Trade Organization. My personal project that I worked on during the summer was the tariff war between China and the US, and how that came about and what that resolution process is going to look like.

What was most rewarding about the experience?

I liked it because it gave me a global perspective. As an Arkansas student and citizen, you can be stuck in the state or just within all of the problems happening in the US right now. When you take yourself out of that and move to a global perspective, it really opens up how you see yourself as a person and how you see the world as an attorney. From traveling, I realize that I love Arkansas. I do want to stay in Arkansas. I love my impact here, and I like the community. I definitely want to go out and bring that global perspective back here.

Isabel Thoma stands before a wall of stacked books and confidently engages the camera

What was it like being on a campus outside the United States?

We had a chef [in the cafeteria,] and it was phenomenal food every day, and we ate in a building that was 2000 years old. It was beautiful. Our professors were similar to [those in] the US. Very similar relationships. Law is a lot of discussion; it’s the Socratic method. [The professors] expect you to read and bring to the table, that way you can participate in class. That’s what’s really nice about law. They already count you as a professional when you step in the door, and I enjoyed that. Within Cambridge, it was different just because of the history of the campus. We were at Downing College, and you feel like you’re in “Pride and Prejudice.” You’re literally walking around and it’s these beautiful stone buildings, and everyone is so welcome[ing]. And you walk everywhere; you don’t ever drive. You don’t have a car; you don’t need to.

Why should students consider Study Abroad?

Study abroad is vital. Use the time you have while it’s still relatively carefree. Getting out of Arkansas and the United States and understanding that people have different customs, traditions and values. A lot of business and a lot of just who we are as people is finding out what matters to someone and what makes them tick and a lot of that comes from who you are and where you’re from and your traditions.

Why do you love ATU?

It felt like I was at home. It feels small; you always see someone you know when you’re walking around. The people are friendly. I had great relationships with all my professors. You have close friends, your professors care about you and support you, and I loved my time on the dance team. We have a great alumni network. Literally, every part of my Tech journey was wonderful.