Prato Unofficial Guide / Studying at Prato / Travel / Unit Reviews

Studying at Prato: Unit Reviews and Workload

A Review to Units and Workload  done in 2014 and available in 2015. Click through the menu below for reviews.


Block 1
Introduction to Italian Legal Culture

Block 2
Comparative European Legal Systems

Privacy and surveillance in an information age: Comparative law perspectives

Block 3
Regulating Family and Relationships

International Business Transactions

So ¾ of the Prato Experience is eating gelato and basking along the pebbly Italian beaches, the other ¼ of the times though you will be in a beautiful 1300s building learning some thing or another.

The law electives at Prato are designed with an international focus and not surprisingly, many of them draw on whatever is currently happening in the European region.  I’m not going to lie, I went to Prato thinking most of my subjects would be easy with not much substance but I was beyond wrong. The classes were interesting and the lecturers engaging, the intensive classes meant that I stretched my thinking and learned a great deal more than I bargained for in a 2 month period.

The subjects change year to year with rotating lecturers from not only Monash but other established Law schools in the US, Canada and Italy. Below is a list of subjects that were undertaken  in 2014 and some reviews of student experiences (Thank you Friends for your input). They are a brief taste of what the subjects and work load is like but keep in mind that the units do change a little every year.

DISCLAIMER: All reviews here are highly subjective and based on classes taken in the 2014 Prato Law Intake. Teachers/course structure may change in subsequent years


Introduction to Italian legal culture

Unit Experience: 

Firstly, this class needs to be rechristened. It should be titled “Introduction to Italy”, because that’s exactly what it is. This is the only unit offered by Monash that takes place at an Italian university, the University of Florence in Novoli. It’s about a 15 minute bus ride from Santa Maria Novella station in Florence, and an additional 20 minute train ride for those staying in Prato.
From the outset it promises to be an easy ride. There is a new lecturer for every class, and the final exam is a pass/fail multiple choice test. However, the most important thing you’ll learn in this class is taught on day one: if something seems too good to be true, it most definitely is.
You will spend the first week acquainting yourself with Italian bureaucracy as you complete the seemingly impossible scavenger hunt list of documents and stamps required to enroll in the unit…during class time. The lecturers will be disgruntled. They will not understand why this is so difficult for you to do. They will have sent you this information in riddle form the previous week.
Once ten of the 30 or so people have managed to run this gauntlet, you’ll begin the lessons. In Italy many lecturers prefer not to use slides. Instead they will…well, lecture. This wouldn’t be so bad if the classes didn’t last for two hours…and if there were fewer teachers who couldn’t actually speak English all that well.


As for the workload, there are often several long readings for every class. The exam is entirely based on minute, almost trivial facts in these readings. I’d wager that nobody would ever pass this unit if it weren’t for the fact that the EXACT SAME EXAM is used every year…and if students didn’t magically get a hold of a copy every time. In 2014 a mysterious Hungarian student appeared during the second last week of classes, passed around the past exam, and disappeared without a trace. Truth is stranger than fiction.

So, I would definitely recommend this unit if you want an authentic experience of the sheer chaos that is everyday Italian life. You might learn something, you might not, but, you’re guaranteed to have a good story to tell when you get back home. Nobody will believe you though.

As the Italians say, in bocca al lupo.




Comparative European Legal Systems

Unit Experience: 

In 2014 this unit was taught by two professors from the University of Florence at the Monash Prato campus. If they take it on again, you’re in for a treat. They’re truly passionate about European legal systems…and maybe about each other? They fight like an old married couple, and raise some serious questions about whether jointly delivering a lecture is both time efficient and effective. But, they’re very cute and complete sweethearts – they will make an effort to get to know everybody’s name and a little bit about them. It makes for a very warm and fuzzy experience. On top of this, the course work itself is quite interesting, if not a little repetitive. This, however, makes it very easy to answer assessed questions.


The downside to this class is the workload. There are many long readings, and yes, they expect you to have reviewed them all. It’s a big ask, especially considering the amount of time you’re going to be dedicating to eating pizza and watching the sunset, so expect to see their little hearts shatter into a million pieces every time an attempt to start a class discussion falls flat. You will feel bad. You should feel bad. They’re so cute L Other than the readings, you will have an essay and an exam to complete. Both are roughly 2000 words. You’ll basically have the same amount of work to do as students in other classes. Sure, it’ll suck to be stuck inside writing while everyone’s outside cosying up to the locals, but if you knuckle down with a big jar of Nutella for two or three days you’ll be done in no time.

Privacy and surveillance in an information age: Comparative law perspectives

Unit Experience: 

After the whole NSA debacle, privacy and surveillance was a no-brainer unit to reach for anyone interested in the global impact of the leaks. The classes were interesting with sometimes heated classroom discussions. The class also combined recent events in privacy law with explorations in the philosophy of surveillance and self idenitiy. So get ready to be acquainted with Posner and Foucault whose keen minds will be ultimately lost to you because you probably didn’t come to Italy expecting to hike up a sense of paranoia in the summer heat.


Work load was a 4000 word research essay on a chosen topic about the unit and a presentation. It was relatively easy to fit into a schedule of weekend travelling. Coming out from the unit and doing the research essay meant that I learned a lot about the inadequacies of any sort of law trying to govern the Internet because it is a free spirit and will outsmart you anyway.


Regulating relationships and families

Unit Experience: 

Renata’s stories about her many eccentric clients, including the one who named her twins “Jenni and Taliah”- think about it- and the other who named her kids “Shannon and Not-Shannon”; Renata’s many reveries about George Clooney: learning about the messed up surrogacy laws in Australia, learning why same-sex marriage should be legalised, outside of “fuck you govt for saying same sex couples are less deserving of the right to spend $$$ and then spend even more $$$ getting divorced”; falling in love with family law. You either love it or hate it, and most of us loved it.

Next to nothing. The content is interesting so the three hours whizzed by. I did reading because I liked the subject, but Renata didn’t expect us to do anything except travel. In fact she was disappointed when we didn’t have exciting travel stories. The take-home essay was doable even though it was 4,000 words because she gave us a great selection of essay topics.

International Business Transactions

Highlight of the Class:

It was quite small, so I really liked the fact that I could interact with everyone in the class. It really allowed me to make friends with a whole range of people (JDs, undergraduates, French students) I think he was an alright marker, I should have done a lot worse than I got.

Bad bits: – It was boring – I think the guy who took it knew a lot but didn’t really know how to teach it in an engaging manner. There were perhaps one or two classes I found really engaging but besides that, it wasn’t great – He did try to adopt an international view on the things he was teaching with varying degree of success I think last year they really enjoyed the class because I remember Sarah telling me the fact that they really enjoyed it


It wasn’t too bad – one 5 minute presentation and a 4000 word problem question. The problem with the problem questions was that: 1. We weren’t sure how to answer it – he’d taught us the very minimal but in the actual application, it was very different 2. He wrote it last minute – most of the questions didn’t have enough for you to discuss and one of them had too much to discuss


Honestly, I would have switched classes into family relationships if it wasn’t the people I met.

Alternative review

This is definitely a course for the commerce kids. The course material was very practical, introducing concepts that are relevant in international trade. The class was fairly interactive, with several group assignments and group discussion, which helped a lot with understanding the concepts and identifying practical problems that may arise.
As will many Prato subjects, the class was not conducted by a Monash lecturer so the differences in structure and teaching style may be disconcerting for some. I personally enjoyed the fairly casual approach, which seemed appropriate given the surroundings. The weighting of the exam questions however hinted that the lecturer had much more important things on his plate.

Group assignments and class participation: 10%; oral presentation: 10%; take-home exam: 80%. The lecturer acknowledged that no one was in Italy to study and advised us not to work too hard on the take-home exam. The take-home exam, while not particularly difficult had a strong detrimental effect on the quality of the next 10 days of travel for me and presumably for most people who left Prato soon after the teaching period finished.


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