Mentorship Program in China Inspires Student to Pursue Law Degree

By Ed Moorhouse

Carly Wells

Carly Wells

Carly Wells decided one year in China just wasn’t enough.

Wells, a native of Fanwood in Union County, planned to put graduate school on hold for a year so that she could return to China, where she had spent two weeks while she was an undergraduate student at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.

“I thought China was the place I needed to be,” says Wells, who is beginning her first year as a Rutgers Law School student this fall. “The more time I spent there the more I tried to just figure out what I was interested in and what I wanted to do.”

It was easy to draw inspiration from China, where she volunteered as an undergraduate student with an organization called International English and Cultural Studies, which seeks to help Chinese college students enhance English grammar and leadership skills. Shortly after graduating in 2009, she moved back to China to volunteer with the same organization, returning home only during the summer months until 2011.

While in the city of Longfang in China’s Hebei province, Wells had an opportunity to mentor college students.

“We talked to them a lot about compassion and forgiveness and major themes that are about making the world a better place. We were there to teach them, but also bring some sort of joy into their lives,” Wells says. “I was 22, but I was teaching students who were my age. They had the utmost respect for me because I was their teacher. They were receptive to what we had to say. There were cultural differences and I tried to get them to think of the world outside of the structured regimen that they were used to.”

As inspired as she was by the people she met in China, Wells says she grew frustrated with government regulation in the country, which led to her interest in law. When she returned home, Wells earned her master’s degree in criminal justice from Monmouth University and, after working full time for an insurance company, decided to pursue her law degree.

“I took some constitutional law classes in graduate school and I was drawn to the way laws interact and how I would read one case and see it trickle down and impact other laws and cases,” she says.

When choosing a law school, Wells almost immediately found a perfect fit in Rutgers University–Camden.

“There was always something different about Camden that I liked and when I was accepted, Dean (Camille) Andrews (associate dean of enrollment and projects at Rutgers Law–Camden) quoted back to me something that I wrote in the paper I wrote for my application,” Wells says. “I had never seen that in my life. She quoted my own work in showing me why I was accepted to Rutgers–Camden. It wasn’t generic.”

Wells continues, “It just seemed like the right fit. I live close to New York City and I’m more of the ‘go, go, go’ mindset, but Camden felt more personal. It felt right.”

Wells is open-minded about where her law career will take her. Her experience in China and past volunteer efforts to help children and the homeless would seem to make advocacy for those populations a natural fit. She says, “I like the idea of giving back and providing a service for people in need. Everything that I’ve done makes me want to do something for those who can’t defend themselves. But I can’t say for sure I’ll go in that direction.”

Wells also has an eye on criminal prosecution.

“I’ve always followed big cases around the country. I like to watch them, to read about them. I like to process of gathering evidence. People say I’m obsessed with court cases,” she laughs.

No matter what path she decides to take, Wells is up for the next challenge.

“Nothing motivates me more than myself,” she says. “I know law school is going to be difficult, but I like to prove it to myself that I can do it.”

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