Meet the LLM Class: Mariia Melnyk

LLM student Mariia Melnyk is from Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine. She studied in a school that focused on foreign languages and has been learning English since she was 7 and Spanish since she was 10. Due to a different academic approach in Ukraine, she went to law school right after high school. There she obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in International law and the law of the European Union. While working on her master’s degree, she spent a semester studying international commercial arbitration and EU investment law in Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania. She then worked at a law firm in Ukraine, handling negotiations for one of the largest multinational companies in the tourism business. Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, she was forced to leave for the U.S., where I stayed with my host family in Aberdeen, South Dakota. While I was there, I worked remotely in the IT sector. A month before my LLM Program started here, I went back to Ukraine to visit my family since I am the only one who left Ukraine.

Welcome to Minnesota Law!. Can you tell us why you decided to get an LLM from Minnesota Law?

Minnesota Law School checked all the points on my list. I chose to get an LLM from here because I was taken by how many resources the school has, and how many opportunities it provides to the students. I also read the statistics of the employment rate from the University of Minnesota and the connections the school has with different organizations in Minnesota. I think for someone coming from abroad those things are very important. There are so many interesting things to do outside of school as well. International Student and Scholar Services hosts many events for foreign students specifically and for me, it makes me feel welcome so the choice was very obvious.

What are you looking forward to most during your year in Minnesota?

There are many things that I am looking forward to accomplishing here. First, I would like to experience American law school since it is so different from back home. I am also hoping to meet more people and establish good professional connections, which I hope will help me in the future. Professionally, I am looking forward to learning more about commercial law, and arbitration from experienced lawyers here at Minnesota Law. Finally, I enjoy big cities and I think Minneapolis is a great place to explore traditional big city life in the United States.

Minnesota Law strives to embody a culture of equity, inclusiveness, and belonging in the classroom and in our community. What are some of the most important aspects of creating a culture where all students feel like they belong?

When you have a classroom full of students that come from different backgrounds on various levels it is crucial to make them feel that they can express themselves, and there are no wrong questions. During my first course of Introduction to American Law, I felt so welcomed and professors were very understanding of language barriers and different legal systems and they encouraged me and other students to participate in class discussions and share our own opinions. I think having all those aspects can eventually help to embrace diversity in the legal community at Minnesota Law.

Do you have a hobby or special interests? And/or what do you like to do during your free time?

I like bike riding, water skiing and going to museums, especially if those are connected with art. I am also a huge hockey fan, so I am hoping to attend a couple Minnesota Wild games, and of course, University of Minnesota hockey team games. In my spare time, I like spending time with my dog, and my American family here.

Who inspires you and why?

I am usually inspired by people around me, because they are here and present so I can physically see what they are doing to achieve their goals. If I have to distinguish some people that motivate me I would say my close family in Ukraine, and my American family here. All of them are very hard-working people, and everytime I feel like I can't do certain things, I always think of them and their path to success so it keeps me motivated.

Most recently, I have started to become inspired by the Ukrainian nation in general, because they show on a daily basis what it means to be brave, and I think nowadays, it is a concept that gets to be forgotten a lot. But Ukrainians and their bravery to me is something that I am inspired by every day.

What’s the most recent book or podcast you’ve read or listened to?

One of the recent books that I read is Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell.

Finally, if someone is traveling to your country, what should they do or see?

Right now, I would not recommend anyone to travel to my home country because of the war. However, if you choose to go, I would recommend going to the Carpathian Mountains in the western part of the country, and specifically the Bukovel resort. I was just there last summer and it was really nice. The food is awesome, and there you can experience Ukrainian folklore, and culture at its best. Unfortunately, due to the war, there are not a lot of tourists there. Nevertheless, you can still support Ukrainians in this war and help us to get to victory faster, so that you will be able to see the rest of the country.