My Life as a Chinese Graduate Law School Student in San Francisco


Aileen Ping Huang is a graduate of the Doctor of Judicial Science (SJD) (’14) program at Golden Gate University specializing in International Commercial Arbitration.

When I was admitted to Golden Gate University Law School’s SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science) program, I was very excited. I dreamed of getting my doctorate ever since I started teaching in China at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, Zhongnan Campus. I wanted to study in the U.S. for a few reasons: to learn about U.S. law because it has a common law system rather than China’s statutory law system; to introduce U.S. case law to China for academic research and China’s ongoing legal reform; and to experience legal education at a U.S. law school. Most of all, GGU has an excellent SJD program for international students that I could not find in a lot of other law schools.

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Starting My Journey

My contact with GGU, from my first inquiry through admission, was so pleasant that I felt immediately welcomed as an international student. The journey started with orientation week for new students where GGU staff introduced us to our peer mentors who would facilitate our studies and lives in San Francisco. They were well-informed about how to survive school (and ace every semester!), rent an apartment, get around on BART trains, and sign up for mobile cell phone service. As international students, we had no idea where to find housing and needed information on San Francisco renting. GGU gave us what we needed to figure out where to live and connected us with other students who might be able to share a place.

Some international students like me, whose native language is not English, would run into various problems. Nevertheless, we were never left to fend for ourselves and fortunately were given timely help from GGU staff.

Touring San Francisco

The most fun part of orientation week was the tour of San Francisco in motor carts. The student advisor of the law school international studies led the trip. He introduced the history of each place we visited. Along the way, our peer mentors told us about nice places to shop, dine, exercise, and have fun.
As law students, our lives can be hectic and stressful at times. I recharged by going to exotic places in the city we discovered together. Of course, above all places, Chinatown is my favorite. Although it has a large Chinese population, it is only a physical replica of China and a far cry from modern China! I like tasting various Chinese food options, but they are not quite authentic because they are Americanized. Yet, it has some flavor of my hometown, which soothes my homesickness.

At the GGU Sompong Fulbright Symposium on International Law in 2013. Left to Right: Chen, Li (law professor from Shanghai Fudan University School of Law); Professor Arthur Gemmell (GGU adjunct professor); Aileen, and classmate Weiwei Zhang (GGU SJD candidate).


At GGU you will have no problem connecting with your fellows through various events jointly held by GGU and different groups and organizations. GGU alumni work in various organizations and businesses. This establishes a good avenue for us to develop friendships, to have fellowship, and, more importantly, to land future work opportunities. I am a member of the Asian American Bar Association and I got to know some Chinese-American lawyers at a networking event. I shared with them my interest in legal translation and they offered me a volunteer opportunity that I am still committed to.

Doctoral Journey

The main part of my journey at GGU law school was the doctoral research paper. It was no doubt a gigantic project, which took lots of time and effort to finish. What was encouraging to us was that the Law School committee members were always there for us; so we kept making progress until our dissertations were finished.

Aileen on graduation day

As my research was about Chinese arbitration and culture, I took the International Commercial Arbitration course, which was taught by Professor Arthur Gemmell. I was fascinated by this course not only because it was the topic of my research, but also because he did a great job drawing our attention to the key issues and giving us challenging case analysis assignments. With his instruction, I developed new reasoning and analytical skills by the end of the term.

The chair of the International Legal Studies, Professor Christian Nwachukwu Okeke, showed great concern to international students throughout the process. Considering the challenge of writing the dissertation in English, he assigned Professor Nancy Younge as our technical coach to help us with issues of formality, structure, and grammar in our papers.

Aileen (center, sitting) and students of the Comparative Law course taught by Professor Christian Okeke (directly behind her).

There seemed to be nothing GGU had not considered to help international students, from the beginning to the end of the program. GGU makes me feel at home in the U.S. Regardless of what part of the world you come from — or what race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or age you may be — GGU opens its arms to embrace you. Whatever you need here, GGU cares and is ready to help. That is the spirit of GGU and that is the spirit that makes GGU shine!

About Dr. Aileen Ping Huang

Before moving to the U.S., Dr. Aileen Ping Huang earned the BA degree in Chinese Language and Literature at Wuhan University, and the JM (Juris Master) degree specializing in International Environmental Law at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. She taught Professional English and the Fundamental Law bilingually at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, Zhongnan Campus. She also taught Chinese to foreign experts when she was the coordinator of the University’s international office. She came to the U.S. in 2007 and started her legal study at the LL.M U.S. legal studies at California Western School of Law, and later devoted herself to the SJD (Doctor of Judicial Science) program at Golden Gate University specializing in International Commercial Arbitration, earning an SJD doctoral degree in May 2014. She is currently studying Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, and Probate Law at GGU, and plans to sit on the California bar. Currently, she is researching Chinese law and culture. She is also active in rendering voluntary legal services in mediation, arbitration, legal interpretation for nonprofit organizations such as Asian American Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, San Francisco Community Boards, and the SF Homeless Supportive and Housing. She is a member of the San Francisco Bar Association, and a member of the Asian American Bar Association.

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