Celebrating International Education Week
As part of Saint Louis University’s first annual International Education Week, SLU LAW profiles Ira Herenda Trako, the new assistant director for SLU LAW’s Center for International and Comparative Law.
Ira Herenda Trako (’11) wasn’t old enough yet to comprehend all the reasons her family had to move away from her home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina at age six.
Looking back, though, she realized that her circumstances set her on a course that has brought her to SLU LAW’s Center for International and Comparative Law (CICL).
“I did not know why I had to leave my home. I was too young to understand what was happening, but old enough to remember the bombings, the fear and the panic that filled the city,” said Herenda Trako, CICL’s new assistant director. “Ultimately, my circumstances fueled my desire to learn about international law.”
Herenda Trako was born in Sarajevo a year after the city hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. She described her home country as “a great place to live” before the Bosnian War broke out in 1992. In April 1992, Herenda Trako was fortunate enough to board the last civilian flight out of Sarajevo with her mother and grandmother.
The family settled in Germany and was eventually reunited with Herenda Trako’s father, who originally had to stay in Bosnia as only women and children were allowed to leave at the outbreak of the war. Due to the unfavorable conditions in Bosnia after the war, the Herenda family decided on a move to the United States, specifically, St. Louis.
“My parents decided to move to St. Louis in order for us to have a better future,” said Herenda Trako, who was 13 when they moved to the US. “It was an adjustment. I spoke no English. We had friends and family in Germany and found ourselves starting all over again in St. Louis.”
After high school, she came to Saint Louis University to study economics and history. After college, she attended SLU LAW and obtained a J.D. with a concentration in international and comparative law.
“Receiving a law degree and a concentration in international and comparative law allowed me to learn about local, national and international laws,” she said.
After graduating in 2011, Herenda Trako began practicing law in St. Louis with a local firm.. She immediately began using her foreign language skills with clients and quickly learned to appreciate the variety of courses she took at SLU LAW. Despite the fact she was practicing criminal and civil litigation, Herenda Trako said the skills she acquired through her concentration in international and comparative law still came up in her practice.
Since accepting her position with CICL in October, Herenda Trako said she has been sharing her experiences with SLU LAW students and encouraging them that a concentration in international and comparative law doesn’t mean you have to live overseas.
“St. Louis has become a melting pot,” she said. “The changes in the demographics have created new opportunities in the legal community. Local law firms are noticing the importance of bilingual attorneys and attorneys with a knowledge of international law. From the immigration consequences in criminal sentencing to international sales transactions, international law is becoming increasingly relevant in our legal community.”
Another part of her position with CICL is encouraging students to consider study abroad opportunities like CICL’s summer program in Madrid, Spain. Herenda Trako enrolled in the Madrid program in 2009 and called it one of the best experiences she had in law school.
“The nation’s top law schools focus heavily on study abroad and student exchange programs. There is a value to studying international law and understanding the way people think in other parts of the world,” Herenda Trako said. “It pays to learn about immigration, international business transactions, human rights law, the European Union and the civil law system. Having knowledge of local and international laws allows a student to build a sought after skill set in a growing global environment.”
Herenda Trako said one of her goals is to expand the Center’s study abroad options.
“Currently we have wonderful opportunities throughout western Europe in countries such as Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Ireland,” she said. “Our goal is to inform students of these programs while creating new and exciting programs for our students.”
To find out more about a concentration in international and comparative law, including study abroad options, click HERE.