Social Science Scholar: Lex Legal Fellowship 2019 in Madrid, Spain

This past summer, I worked on two different projects through Social Science Scholars. During the initial part of the summer, I worked on my Honors Thesis and IDEA grant research project in the region of Catalonia focused on the region’s declaration of independence. On the latter half of the summer, I became a Lex fellow in Madrid, Spain. I worked with numerous legal firms ranging from trade, maritime, immigration and international law on current and previous cases. The majority of the scholarship funded the Lex Fellowship which also provided us with legal breakout sessions in the afternoons in which we learned about the American legal system. The fellowship was structured to provide versatility by providing us with morning sessions with lawyers and firms and then having legal workshops with our legal advisor. 

During the initial four to five weeks, I traveled around Valencia, Castellon and Barcelona conducting in-depth interviews regarding the Catalonian political independence movement. In 2017, Catalonia, the region that encompasses Barcelona and three other regional areas, declared independence from the central government of Spain. This was declared entirely unconstitutionally by the central Spanish government and sparked a movement for additional recognition. I completed forty interviews of lawyers, politicians, educators, and entertainers with a focus on individuals participating in the economic market. I transcribed this information and then created statistical graphs to illustrate the results. With a higher proportion of interviewees acknowledging that this independence movement has affected the country economically and internationally. Further, 30% of the respondents agree that a referendum vote in Catalonia should be undertaken and recognized by the central government.

A group of people posing for the camera. Sabrina Mato is on the left.

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In the Lex Fellowship, a few of the legal firms and organizations we worked with were the Sagadory Abogados, Fiscalia General del Estado, and Casajuana Abogados. In the course of these weeks, I was able to work on various legal cases in these law firms that focused on international law.  The Lex Fellowship program also gave me a foundation for legal understanding in the United States though the knowledge of our legal advisor who is a practicing attorney. This program also taught me about the importance of knowing your niche in the law field and helped me narrow down my specific interests. Moreover, I realized how important working directly with people is to my future and what I hope to accomplish with my law career. 

The Social Science Scholars Program has provided me with an incredible opportunity to not only learn about the politics and legal systems of Spain, but also experience the culture of the country. I also began to understand and piece together my interest in specific legal fields and my future in law. My research project in Catalonia also provided me with a comprehensive insight into the political movement and perspective of citizens in the region, the capitol and the surrounding geographical areas. I am beyond grateful for the profound impact this program has had on my future career and the opportunities and connections I have fostered at Florida State and abroad. 

Sabrina Mato is pursuing degrees in International Affairs and Political Science. She is interested in a legal career emphasizing immigrant or human rights law. 

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