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, Subha Nivedha discusses her time as an LL.M. candidate (’19) at Leiden University where she took up the Advanced LL.M. in Public International Law. A graduate of the School of Law at Sastra University (Class of ’18), Subha is also the founder of the NGO, MSAAW. In this interview, she talks about how she went about shortlisting the schools to apply to, her time at Leiden, and a lot more.

As an undergrad student, at what point of time did you start thinking about an LLM? And did you think of working for a few years before applying?

I wanted to work at international organisations for a long time. That was always something I wanted to do. Around the fourth year [of the undergraduate course], I really started planning for an LLM, and more so I wanted to do it abroad.

Yes, I did consider working for a while, but since I had started my own NGO ‘MSAAW’, and had already worked for a few years on gender and human rights, I felt I was ready to start immediately on the LLM.

Was this decision influenced by the study abroad programme at Manchester University? How was this experience?

It had a huge influence. My home university didn’t have a tie-up with UoM, so I had to independently process it. I wanted to try applying for this to know if I would qualify to get into the universities I wanted.

Once I got the admission, it was about whether I could keep up with the international standards. The experience was an eye-opener. It was very enriching not just academically, but also helped me gain confidence to aim for bigger things.

When did you start searching for law schools to apply to, and how did you go about narrowing down on Leiden?

I started working on my Masters applications when I was in the UK. I was a little anxious about my chances, so I applied to a lot of schools. I applied to more than twelve law schools if I remember right. I did have a lot of pros and cons lists when it came to choosing the school I wanted to go to. But I think the overall combination of location, courses, finance and also the challenge of a new kind of education system made me choose Leiden.

“I think the overall combination of location, courses, finance and also the challenge of a new kind of education system made me choose Leiden.”

Any advice on the application process, more specifically, the Statement of Purpose?

Most people who have applied for LLMs will start with the advice of ‘starting early’. That is the golden rule. In addition, it really helps to understand why one wants to do an LLM. The reasons can be extremely diverse and there is no right or wrong answer to the why, but it just has to be the right one for the person applying.

“The reasons can be extremely diverse and there is no right or wrong answer to the why, but it just has to be the right one for the person applying.”

Writing a Statement of Purpose is a process. The self-awareness while writing one can be one of the most introspective things that can be done. Honesty and passion. If those two things are communicated well, then I think it can be categorised as a good SOP.

Did you apply for financial aid of any kind?

I missed the scholarship application deadline for Leiden, because I hadn’t initially planned for Leiden. But I applied for the other popular scholarships like Commonwealth, Narotam, Tata. I did get shortlisted for interviews, but didn’t manage to secure a scholarship, unfortunately.

How has the LLM experience been thus far? Any highlights that you can share?

The LLM has shown me how much endurance I have. It is very intense, fast paced and challenging course, especially this Advanced LLM. It is very enriching in the sense, people who are way more senior and experienced listen and value your input in class or on a group project.

There is a lot of mutual respect which helps in bettering your career. I did a part-time job at an NGO in my first semester. So through that, I could represent the organisation at the UN conference of Business and Human Rights – that was a dream come true moment.

Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate or student who is considering pursuing a master’s (LLM or otherwise) outside the country? 

Give yourself a break. Living abroad has shown me how to balance my life. I am trying really hard to make sure I don’t spend insane hours in the library. Yes, a Masters is a huge commitment, requires a lot of hard work and focus, but it also could give a burnout.

So, pause for a minute to understand if you have the stamina to work on this. Whether this will make or break you. This is the only advice I think I have, apart from ‘Keep dreaming’. That is the guiding path.

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