Allegheny French student prepares for life as an international private lawyer

Messê Houngnikpo, who has just begun her second semester at Allegheny and her second semester in America, is feeling more comfortable in her routine.

Even during the fall semester of 2014, Houngnikpo found that being immersed in American culture made adapting easier.

“Sometimes I don’t realize that I spend my whole day speaking English and not French,” she commented.

Most of Houngnikpo’s studies have focused on U.S. law and history because she wants to be an international private lawyer once she finishes her education.

This semester, she finds her courses somewhat more challenging and attributes this to the rise in class level. Whereas she was previously taking 100 and 200 level classes, she is now taking 300 level classes, those being constitutional law: powers of government, and rights in comparative perspective.

Despite her classes being more difficult than last semester, they are closer to what Houngnikpo is used to. She graduated from the University of Nantes in 2014 and she has found the classes she took there were more challenging than the two she took in fall of 2014 at Allegheny. She found her finals less challenging as well.

That degree is called her licence in France and she is planning on then doing two more years of school of specialized schooling to achieve her master.

This being her last few months here, as she will be returning to her hometown of Chaudron-en-Maugesin, France, at the end of the spring 2015 semester, Houngnikpo is trying to spend as much time as possible with her friends. She is reaching out to other students less in order to focus her attention on those she is already close to.

“We love each other–we like being with each other,” Houngnikpo described.

The affectionate feeling is mutual according to Stefanie Cuadra, ’15.

“A common French stereotype is that the French are rude snobs who don’t like to speak English,” Cuadra explained. “Messê is the prime example that stereotypes are reflections of fear for the unknown and sometimes ignorance because she may be one of the sweetest and considerate people I have met in my life.”

As well as finding friendship in Houngnikpo, Cuadra feels that she has been enlightened on French culture in a personal way as a result of their time together.

“From everything she has told me, I’ve learned a lot about the education system in France, the gastronomy of the country, differences in social etiquette and much more,” Cuadra said.

Brian Harward, associate professor of political science and Houngnikpo’s constitutional law professor this semester, feels that he gains a better understanding of foreign law when he has international perspectives in his class.

“It’s nice to have students in the class who have a much deeper understanding of the role of law, courts and legal processes in those countries than I do,” Harward said. “They can be important resources as we compare legal institutions and patterns of judicial or litigant behavior in other countries.”

Professors such as Harward and Howard Tamashiro, who is an associate professor of political science as well as Houngnikpo’s rights in comparative perspective professor, seem to agree that being exposed to international perspectives is often a give and take system.

“She provided a valuable international… perspective on U.S. policies that are not often available in Allegheny political science class discussions,” Tamashiro explained. “Conversely, I believe Messê was exposed to U.S.-centered interpretations of European… events and policies that she found interesting.”