Me, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Law Studies: A Brief Story of a Serendipity
Trust me, it is not difficult to write a piece of 1500 words about yourself (emphasize on self). Who can resist the opportunity of doing it? I always know that Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, was serious when he said that humans are basically selfish as we want the best of everything based on self-interests. However, I too believe in John Locke’s tabula rasa theory which articulates that human characters are formed by experiences.
As I sit in my room here in London, where I have been for almost 1 year now, I was surprised to find out that it is not easy to write your experiences in just 1500 words. So, I figured if that is all I have, I need to choose interesting moments of my life as to impress dear readers (you see? purely selfish motives). By the end of this article, I hope you will see that while as individuals, we are and to some extent should be selfish, a more important thing to remember is that we cannot achieve our dreams without the support from other individuals. Further, we should never stop learning and experiencing many things that life has to offer. That and of course both Locke and Hobbes are geniuses.
I must say that I consider myself to be a very lucky person. I came with the decision to do master studies abroad pretty quickly. After I finished my undergraduate study in 2013, I found myself in the middle of making life decisions as an adult. At first, I thought I wanted to be, practically, the best lawyer ever. How could I not want to? The prospects of earning good income, building global professional network and satisfaction of clinching your arguments on daily basis as well as Harvey Specters of Suits TV series encouraged me to be a lawyer. Then, as time went by, I was involved in a research project on international investment in Indonesia with some of my law lecturers. I immediately found the subject captivating and I was simply not able to stop researching about it. International investment law has so many unchartered territories, salient topics and interesting policies, and months of rigorous research were intellectually stimulating for me; it was like I found my happy place. So then I explored the possibilities of doing LLM with a program that goes with my passion, a place that allows me to learn more about international investment and dispute settlement with academic and practical approaches. I applied to Queen Mary University of London and got accepted. Could not get any luckier than that, right? Just when I thought so, I got the privilege of receiving LPDP scholarship. And so it began, I embarked on my journey as a student (yet again) in a country that is completely foreign to me.
Now, to give you a bit of background of my current studies, I am studying LLM in Comparative and International Dispute Resolution with focus on international investment and trade as well as transnational law. My dissertation which I recently finished writing on is about termination of bilateral investment treaties by developing countries and its impact to international investment dispute settlement. You might think that it could not be nerdier and more complicated than that, but, aside from pursuing my LLM, I also competed in the Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Competition earlier this year. This competition is a simulation of international arbitration of a fictional investment dispute where the participants must present their written and oral arguments before panel of arbitrators. I am no stranger in juggling studies and Moot competitions on undergraduate level, but things are different and more demanding on postgraduate level. The combination of both LLM studies and Moot competition preparations are exciting but exhausting, difficult but accommodating. Doing readings and research about international investment, trade and transnational law even on the weekends became a pleasant routine for me. There were times when I had to figure out, among others how to prove a certain investment treaty to be inconsistent with international law, what determines fair and equitable treatment for investors, the peculiarity of transnational law as well as the advantage and pitfall of international trade.
I am not ashamed to say that the whole experience was a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes I cried out of pressure and exhaustion. As a consolation, I reminded myself that I had to work hard, strive for the best and that those experiences would help me in achieving my dream to be a scholar and an expert in the field. During these times, I received love and support from my beloved family and friends, and my teammates, coaches, lecturers and tutors were very helpful too. I realized that I was not alone. Hobbes and Locke are right; humans are unique since they are both selfish and social beings. Romcom it is not indeed, far from it.
My family and great friends said that the experiences I obtained during my LLM year would shape my characters to be better and that when I look back and remember those moments, everything would fall into place and it is priceless. They were and still are eye-opening lessons about not just law, but also about family and friendship, teamwork and professionalism, as well as the immeasurable value of education.
If you want to do postgraduate study especially in law, first, remember to know what you want to study about and what you want to achieve from it, LLM studies around the world are varied, they are designed to focus on specific areas of law. To do this, list out and choose schools that have modules and programs you look for. Second, considering funding and scholarship is always a wise move, ask anything you want to know about the universities and programs of your dream to people who are and have been there. Third, set a feasible timeline in preparing your application and do not hesitate to ask for feedbacks on it; a good and distinctive application does not happen in just a week or two. Fourth, submit your document in a timely manner. Last but not least, for those who have law background and are interested to do both LLM and Moot competitions, let me tell you that you are in for a great ride. Keep in mind that it is crucial to give equal attention to both so as not to jeopardize any of them, especially your studies as they lead you to your degree. Understandably, balancing studies and Moot preparation is always tricky. To anticipate this, I made myself a timeline and schedule so I am always on the track. I personally think that sticking to schedule is the most efficient way to deal with such daunting tasks. You will be surprised to find out that time can be your friend. Talking to lecturers and tutors when you have any questions about your studies is also helpful. They can give you advises on the modules, academic and professional opportunities, tips on study method, exams and course essays preparations.
All in all, I am grateful for everything in my life by far. Whoever and wherever you are, dear readers, I just want to say, pursue your dream and never give up on it! Believe in yourself that you can be whatever you aspire to be as long as you set your mind and heart on it. And just like how lucky am I to do what I am most passionate of, making beautiful friendships, seeing other cultures and meeting kindred-spirits along the way, I wish you the same and many more. Be curious, be humble, be kind, and never take anything nor anyone for granted. Other than these, I recommend a healthy dose of Netflix, good books, spending time with your family and friends, travelling and culinary tastings.
Irene is a LLM Candidate in Comparative and International Dispute Resolution, Queen Mary University of London. Prior to her master studies, she read law at Universitas Indonesia and managed to graduate with caffeine overdose, raccoon eye-bags, sweet memories and expanded book collections. She is also a proud and self-proclaimed feminist, aspiring poet and natural comedienne.
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