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Criminal Justice Majors Spend Their Winter in the ‘Land Down Under’

Australia Study Abroad Program Centers on 'Crime, Law and Justice'
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From indigenous cultures to restorative justice, a winter study abroad program in Australia gave 15 Cal State Fullerton students an inside look at issues of crime and justice from the other side of the world.

There were several impactful moments of the trip for criminal justice majors Vanessa Barrios, Adrian Soriano and Andrea Valencia, including opportunities to observe drug court proceedings; learn about homelessness and victimization; and meet with federal police, magistrates, faculty experts and justice professionals.

“Studying a different criminal justice system has allowed me to see how another part of the world operates relative to mine,” said Soriano, who aims to become a defense lawyer or to work with groups aimed at rehabilitation and reentry for young offenders. “It was amazing to be able to speak with practitioners of the Australian criminal justice system.”

The Dec. 30-Jan. 16 trip was led by Stacy Mallicoat, a professor of criminal justice in the Division of Politics, Administration and Justice.

“Australia presents a unique lens to study not just the criminal justice system, but also the larger social issues that are exacerbated by the system, such as racism, homelessness, addiction and violence,” said Mallicoat. “At the same time, students were able to see how practices such as drug courts and restorative justice can provide alternatives outside of the traditional system.

“One of our key themes looked at the how indigenous communities are overrepresented in the Australian criminal justice system,” she added. “Students were able to draw parallels from this issue in Australia to the disproportionate confinement of African Americans in the U.S.”

Barrios, who aspires to work in victims services, said one of the highlights of the trip was participating in service-learning projects, sponsored by CSUF’s Center for Internships and Community Engagement.

“It was enlightening to participate in the service-learning projects because it reminded me that one person can make a difference,” she said. “The study abroad program definitely reignited my spark for community service.”

Among the projects were cooking and packing food for the homeless population and sorting through clothing donations for refugees and victims of domestic violence.

“We learned that one of the leading causes for homelessness in Australia is domestic and family violence,” shared Barrios. “The criminal justice system has the potential to play a major role in all of these cases before they reach this point.”

For Valencia, an aspiring attorney, visiting the courts assuaged her fears of going to law school and helped confirm her career path. “My goal is to one day be in courts like these. The experience showed me that this is really what I want to do with the rest of my life.

“It is a trip that I highly recommend for anyone, especially for criminal justice majors,” she added. “Watching a magistrate in action made me feel that I can reach a similar level of success one day.”

For information about upcoming study abroad programs like “Crime, Law and Justice in Australia,” visit the Office of Study Abroad website.