Q&A with 3L Natacha Garcia of Venezuela
Minnesota Law is home to a very vibrant community of international students from around the globe. One of those students is Natacha Garcia from Caracas, Venezuela, who first came to Minnesota Law in 2016 to get her LL.M. After completing that program, she enrolled in our J.D. program and is currently a 3L.
Why did you choose Minnesota Law when you originally came here for your LL.M. degree?
I picked the Minnesota Law LL.M. program because of the vast variety of courses it offers and the ability to concentrate my studies. I was also attracted to having the opportunity to observe the work of a judge first-hand through the Judicial Observation course. In Venezuela, I did not have any opportunity to be involved in the public sector, so having that chance in the United States was incredible!
The Minnesota Law experience as an international student has been wonderful! During my LL.M. studies, I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and that gave me a global perspective that I did not have before the program. Also, all the staff at the University made me feel at home. I felt supported always. When I transferred to the J.D. program, it took me some time to find myself in the program. However, I was always motivated to keep fighting for achieving my goal by Hannah Kuether, Dr. Noelle Noonan, and Professor Randall Ryder, among others. I have made good friends and have established awesome relationships with a lot of my professors.
What did you get out of your LL.M. experience?
My LL.M. experience led to personal and professional growth and prepared me to better stand up to the challenges of the outside world. What I appreciate most about my LL.M. experience is that it helped me to think outside the box. Additionally, it provided me with many tools that I am now using in the J.D. program and that, in turn, has boosted my ability to succeed in the practice of law.
What inspired you to pursue a J.D. after completing the LL.M. program?
There were a couple of reasons that motivated me to enroll in J.D. program. First, even though I miss home and it will always be my favorite place in the world, the truth is that Venezuela is currently going through a very difficult crisis where human rights are constantly violated and the minimum guarantees human beings deserve are often disregarded. I understood the opportunity to pursue a J.D. program as a powerful tool to better prepare myself to hopefully bring about the change I want to see in the world.
Second, in January 2017, during my LL.M. program and as part of the James H. Binger Center for New Americans Clinic project at the Law School, I was able to participate in a trip to Dilley, Texas to the Family Immigration Detention Center operated by the U.S. government. That experience made me understand that those of us who have the possibility to study are more privileged than we think. We have in our hands the possibility of acquiring the necessary tools that can help people who have not been able to enjoy the same benefits but who have the courage and motivation to be someone better in life.
I wanted to make a difference, and I perceived the J.D. program as the best opportunity for this end. The J.D. is part of a life-long project out of which I am getting the best version of myself.
I fell in love with immigration law, and that is what I would love to do in my professional practice. One of the things that first motivated me to become an attorney was the power you have to change people’s lives, and immigration law is what has connected me the most with that goal. I feel that there is no better reward than knowing that you helped someone have a second opportunity in life, or that you saved them from a life-threatening situation through your legal knowledge. I would also love to work in a higher-education setting.
What advice would you give to an international student considering Minnesota Law as an option?
I would recommend Minnesota Law to any international student considering pursuing either an LL.M or a J.D. in the United States. Minnesota Law has a wonderful program and an incredible selection of academic courses and opportunities to gain practical experience. The educational environment is highly inclusive, and all faculty and staff are happy to make you feel at home and to support you through your experience. Being so far from home is never easy, but Minnesota Law is a family away from home!