First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian law graduates who have pursued, or are currently pursuing, a post-graduate course (be it an LLM or otherwise) from different schools across the world.

In this edition I speak with Shireen Priya Meghe who is currently enrolled in the Masters in Advanced Public International Law at Leiden University. A graduate of Symbiosis Law School Pune (Class of ’18), Shireen shares her reasons behind choosing Leiden University, going about the LLM application process, and much more.

(Edited excerpts)

At what point during your undergraduate degree did you decide to take up a master’s course? Did you contemplate working for a few years before the LLM?

I wasn’t sure at all what I wanted to do in terms of getting a job or getting masters, till my fourth year. During that time, I did my exchange program at Berlin School of Economics & Law (BSEL) and realised my love for international criminal law.

I went on to do a moot in it afterwards and chose it as an elective also. The more I read about it, the more I liked it. When I was nearing the end of my undergraduate course, I knew only one thing, that I loved international criminal law. Considering there are very limited opportunities in India for the subject to work in, I decided to go for an LLM right away.

“When I was nearing the end of my undergraduate course, I knew only one thing, that I loved international criminal law. Considering there are very limited opportunities in India for the subject to work in, I decided to go for an LLM right away.”

One of my professors from BSEL also wrote me a recommendation, which I believe helped to get in. His work in the field has inspired me since I met him at BSEL.

How did you go about course selection? And why did you narrow down on Leiden University?

As I mentioned above, I was steadfast on doing a Masters in ICL. There are fairly limited universities which are good and offer this course. Leiden provides one of the best courses in Advanced ICL so I took my chances and fortunately got in.

Any advice you would have on how to go about writing the SoP? And also choosing referees for the LoRs?

I think SOPs and LORs are extremely underrated when it comes to applications. They play major roles in any selection process. I would say make the SOP as real as you can. Do not copy your CV into your motivation letter. The more real the motivation is, the better chances you have at getting into your university of choice.

“Make the SOP as real as you can. The more real the motivation is, the better chances you have at getting into your university of choice.”

Mention what you like about the field and what has kept you interested in it. It would also be good to state what you think the university’s role has been in furthering the legal development in the field of your choice and that’s why you decided to choose the university.

You could also give a special mention to any professor from that university or their work that you have followed throughout your studies and so on and so forth. There is no set formula, but these are the things one can always include in their motivation letter.

Coming to LoRs, it is very important to choose distinguished people in the field you’re interested in. For example, my LoRs were written by my Dean Dr. Gurpur who is also a Public International Law teacher and has made a mark for herself in the field all over the world. Another one, as I already mentioned, was written by my professor from BSEL who was also an international criminal lawyer and had previously worked in the Rwandan genocide case and so on. It is also important to choose people who know you very closely to keep the LoR as personal as possible.

Did you apply for financial aid of any sort?

I did, but I was actually a bit too late when I started applying for them, and therefore couldn’t apply for many. That was a mistake on my part, and now anyone who asks me about the application process, I make sure to tell them to start applying for scholarships as soon as they can.

How has the LLM experience been thus far? What have been some of the standout experiences at Leiden?

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this experience is that it has been intense. When I had read about it being intense on their website, I hadn’t realised what it actually entailed – it means having to be in the library trying to complete the readings before class all week and, most times, even on weekends.

“When I had read about it being intense on their website, I hadn’t realised what it actually entailed – it means having to be in the library trying to complete the readings before class all week and even weekends.”

The program is called Advanced Masters in Public International Law specialising in International Criminal Law – thus if I didn’t prepare for my classes beforehand I would be very lost as to what the professor is talking about. Most of my classmates have abundant experience in the field and to get on their level, it takes immense pressure to keep up.

Apart from the stressful parts, it has also been really wonderful to study with a class full of people who are very international just like me. We all have our differences but we are all in this together, and I’m grateful for that.

“Apart from the stressful parts, it has also been really wonderful to study with a class full of people who are very international just like me. We all have our differences but we are all in this together, and I’m grateful for that.”

Leiden University’s course is based in the cities of Leiden and The Hague, and I think that’s the best part about the program. Being in such a close proximity to the Peace Palace makes it all worthwhile. It has been enthralling to have lectures given by luminaries such as William Schabas and John Dugard who are worshipped for their work in the field. Leiden also provides many opportunities such as Moots and Clinics.

I recently have been selected to be a part of their IHL Clinic team and will be working with an organisation in furtherance of the same; I think that has been the highlight this year for me.

What is your reading of the recruitment market in the Netherlands when it comes to international LLM students?

I cannot say much about other programs because their market differs completely, but for Public international law, it is in fact difficult to find a job. Every organisation/institution is willing to give internships which are mostly unpaid. In this field, finding a paid position is the real problem.

Lastly, any advice for Indian law grads or students who are considering a master’s abroad?

I didn’t have any work experience apart from internships when I applied, so I would say it is much better to have work experience of at least a year in any field before embarking on this journey. It really gives you a perspective of real life solutions when dealing with the academics here.

“I would say it is much better to have work experience of at least a year in any field before embarking on this journey. It really gives you a perspective of real life solutions when dealing with the academics here.”

I would definitely say that it is an experience you must have. Living abroad, in an international environment, teaches you so many things that you cannot imagine in India. Of course you’re going to miss home a bit, Indian food definitely, but finding a temporary home in another country is an adventure in itself.

“Of course you’re going to miss home a bit, Indian food definitely, but finding a temporary home in another country is an adventure in itself.”

The education system abroad is so different from India and there are so many aspects I love about it especially that the professors are more open to discussions and informal talks about the subjects outside of classes.

Good luck to everyone who is trying to find the LLM of their dreams!

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