First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of law graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (LL.M. or otherwise) from different universities across the world.

In this edition, I get Shubhi Pandey to talk about the LL.M. at Seoul National University.  Shubhi’s choice is interesting in more ways than one; the LL.M. is a two-year program, Asia in general and South Korea in particular is not the most common choice for the Indian law graduate. In this FPA, the Christ University graduate (’18) shares the reasons behind choosing SNU.

(Edited excerpts)

Alright, let’s get this out of the way, why Seoul National University? What were the aspects of the 2-year LL.M. that appealed to you?

I wanted to do something different. When I say that I mean that I wanted to go out of my comfort zone and get an experience of studying in a foreign country which has a totally different culture to offer as compared to the western countries.

I always wanted to learn a new language and during my undergrad years I never got the chance to do that. South Korea offered me both, an LL.M. and a new language. While researching for universities abroad I was mainly focusing on Asian universities, to be precise Hong Kong and South Korea.

“I always wanted to learn a new language and during my undergrad years I never got the chance to do that. South Korea offered me both, an LL.M. and a new language.”

I did apply apply at universities in Germany, Netherlands etc. and got offers from TU Dresden and Tilburg University. However, I got late for my applications to universities like LSE, King’s College, Stockholm University and that was another reason why I mainly focused on Asian universities. Among the Asian universities, SNU has a good reputation worldwide too.

The master’s program at SNU is two years long. During the first year, the course allows us to explore different options, and we can decide our major after the 1st or 2nd semester. I have decided to major in international law.

The course here also allows us to get a double major – this was one more interesting thing about the master’s program here.

At what point of time as an undergraduate student did you decide to embark on a master’s? Did you consider working for a few years before the LLM?

I always had a plan to get a master’s degree. However, I finally decided to embark on a master’s in my final semester as an undergraduate. So technically I was late for the more sought after universities but I did not want to drop a year and take a break from studies.

During my internship at a law firm in my 9th semester, I realized that academics is what I enjoy more. So I decided to apply to some good universities which are not the very conventional ones where Indian law graduates usually go. That is how I found Seoul National University.

At SNU, apart from my master’s degree, I am also learning Korean language at the Language Education Institute which is a part of SNU.

This may be a repetition but how did you go about selecting just where to study? And any advice for Indian law graduates who are researching on just where to apply for a master’s?

My father was the one who helped me in researching for universities with good master’s program. It is then that we found out about the master’s program at SNU. I felt the mater’s course at SNU was perfect for me because it allowed me to explore my options. And, like I have said earlier,  I am getting to learn a new foreign language which has helped me adjust here better.

My advice for law graduates would be to actually ascertain their areas of interest very carefully. Then they should start shortlisting the universities which offer programs that are most suited to your areas of interest. You should make sure that you take note of the deadlines of all the universities where you want to apply. I believe you should start your research on universities as early as possible. Go through the admission procedure very carefully before you start the application. Make sure you have all the documents ready, keep your LoRs and the SoP ready well in advance.

“Go through the admission procedure very carefully before you start the application. Make sure you have all the documents ready, keep your LoRs and the SoP ready well in advance.”

Could you tell me a bit about the application process at SNU?

The application process at SNU is quite simple. It is an online application. However, the university may ask you to post few documents. You need a statement of purpose and two letters of recommendation like most other universities.

After the admission process is successful, they announce the result on the date specified on their website. Then they send you admission documents which are required for the visa application. The number of foreign students here at SNU is quite considerable. It varies from department to department.

You are also a SNU Global Scholar. How does one go about applying for it?

There are 3 types of SNU Global Scholarship:

  • Type I- This includes tuition waiver and some allowances
  • Type II- This includes only tuition waiver
  • Type III (Korean Language Scholarship)- This is awarded to students who want to take Korean Language classes at the Language Education Institute, Seoul National University.

I am a recipient of Type II scholarship. I am receiving a full tuition waiver for my master’s program here.

The application for this scholarship is announced twice a year. Once in December and once in June. The application procedure is simple. You have to fill in the application form and submit it at the office. If you are an international applicant, then you have you post your application. Extra points are awarded to applicants who also send in a video application along with the hardcopy application and transcripts. The detailed information regarding the scholarship is mentioned on the university website under the scholarship option.

How has the LLM experience been thus far? What are some of the more interesting courses that you have taken up, and plan to take up in your second year?

It has been the most enriching experience for me intellectually as well as on a personal level. I say that because during the first two years I got to explore my options before actually deciding my major.

During my undergrad years I was very inclined towards international law and intellectual property law. At SNU, I got an opportunity to take courses from both these majors during the first two semesters here. We have guest lectures during our regular classes apart from the various conferences and seminars. The professors here invite eminent speakers for our classes on a regular basis.

On a personal basis I have come in contact with so many students from all around the world and the discussions in class definitely make the classes more interesting. Apart from this we have regular lunch with the entire class and the professors and this helps in more personal interactions outside class.

“We also have regular lunch with the entire class and the professors and this helps in more personal interactions outside class.”

All the courses that I have taken during the course of the first two semesters at SNU have been interesting. However, currently I am taking a course on climate change law and I feel this has been the most interesting course since climate change is such a burning issue right now.

In the next semester, I mainly have to focus on my thesis and any other course that I decide to take. At SNU there is a qualification exam which is based on the student’s major that all the master’s and PhD students are supposed to take before they start working on their thesis. So I have to take the qualification exam in the upcoming semester.

What are some of the benefits of living in a city such as Seoul? And what were some of the difficulties, if any, you faced in settling down?

The main benefit of living in a city such as Seoul is the cultural exchange that one can experience. Seoul has so much to offer. The people are warm and welcoming here. You get a lot of exposure. There is lot to do here in Seoul. There are numerous conferences outside the university which foreign students can attend. A lot can be learned through volunteer work which attracts a lot of international students. Seoul’s culture is a mix of Asian and western culture. If you are a foodie, then Seoul is the place for you. If you love K-drama and K-pop, then it goes without saying that living in Seoul is a dream come true. Another benefit of living in Seoul is the fact that it is one of the safest places to be.

“Seoul’s culture is a mix of Asian and western culture. If you are a foodie, then Seoul is the place for you. If you love K-drama and K-pop, then it goes without saying that living in Seoul is a dream come true.”

The only difficulty I faced initially was the language barrier. Though I was prepared but not everyone speaks English here. However, I started taking language classes as soon as I arrived here so I did not face the language barrier any time later.

Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?

My advice would be to go for it. Do your research well in advance as to where you want to go for your higher studies. Work hard on your statement of purpose. You should keep in mind that you cannot copy someone else’s SOP and pass it as your own. It has to be your own because you have to convince the university authorities why should they select you through your SOP.

Another important part of the application procedure is the letter of recommendation. I feel you should get your LORs from professors who personally know you because then they will be in a position to answer questions about you more accurately. Just like in your SOP you have to convince the university to consider your application for admission, similarly in the LOR your recommenders have to convince the university to consider you over other applicants.

I believe you should maintain good grades because then it adds to your application as well. Also do not make hasty decisions when it comes to deciding the university where you want to study. Always take time to consider all the pros and cons and then make an informed decision.

“Also do not make hasty decisions when it comes to deciding the university where you want to study. Always take time to consider all the pros and cons and then make an informed decision.”

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