Law school in the US vs. Europe: cheaper and safer to study abroad

The author studied in Europe.
Courtesy of Kristopher Milicevic

  • I went to law school in both the US and Belgium. 
  • In Europe, my classes were more collaborative and significantly cheaper. 
  • I also felt safer while studying in Europe. 

I attended law school in both the United States and Europe thanks to being a dual citizen of the US and Italy. One of the perks of Italian citizenship is the ability to study in any member state of the European Union, so I was able to study and live in Belgium with no difficulty.

I obtained a law degree from the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 2011, and an LLM in international business law from Ghent University in Belgium in 2023.

Reflecting on my experiences, I realize that if I could go back, I would not choose to study law in the US.

The cost of education is more reasonable in Europe

One year of tuition at Ghent University cost me about $6,400, adjusting for the current exchange rate of the euro to the dollar. In contrast, one year of tuition at UNLV currently costs $28,000 for Nevada residents and a whopping $40,900 for non-Nevada residents. In 2011, it was $20,000 for residents and $33,400 for non-residents.

I do not believe that the quality of education I received in the US was worth four times more than the education I received in Belgium.

Like many American students, I took out massive student loans to cover the unreasonable cost of education. In Belgium, I was able to cover the cost of my tuition through sensible saving.

Student loans are especially pernicious in the US because they follow students for life. My fellow students in Belgium were shocked when I explained the concept of student-loan debt to them. This cruelty at the heart of American life makes me wish I’d never attended law school in the United States.

Collaboration was emphasized in Europe, and competition was emphasized in America

The seeds of anxiety were planted in me from the first day I entered the “hallowed” halls of my American law school. From day one, I found that future lawyers competed for grades and coveted spots in school law journals. Anything less than perfection was seen as an abject failure.

The majority of classes in the US are structured so that the professors lecture to students for a fixed amount of time with scheduled interruptions to target “on-call” students with random questions. Apart from rare occasions, American students are not asked to work together to solve problems.

Group work was emphasized in Belgium, and I was able to deepen my connection with my fellow students through meaningful work. Likewise, grades in Belgium were more equitably distributed on a scale of one to 20. Most Belgian students considered a 15 out of 20 a resounding success.

I felt safer at my European university

I attended law school in the wake of the deadly Virginia Tech massacre and the seemingly endless barrage of mass shootings that followed. The fear that I could become another statistic of this tragic American reality was constantly in the back of my mind while I studied at UNLV. This was not without reason: I watched in horror in December 2023 as UNLV experienced a shooting in the same building where I attended classes during my undergraduate years.

I never felt the same fear while attending school in Belgium. Ghent University’s law school is nestled in the heart of the city, surrounded by stunningly preserved medieval architecture. My daily routine involved a 20-minute walk from my apartment to class — something I could never do in the car-centric urban nightmare at UNLV. My daily walk was a time for reflection that I cherished; it never crossed my mind that I would fall victim to a mass shooting in Ghent.

I realize that Europe is not immune to gun violence. However, the rarity of mass shootings in Europe compared to the US meant that I did not live in fear while studying in Belgium.

My young daughter is also a dual citizen of Italy and the US. I won’t allow her to make the same mistakes as me. When my daughter asks me if she should attend university in the US or Europe, I will unfailingly answer: “Study in Europe.”

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