First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (LL.M. or otherwise) from different universities across the world.
Chetna Chandel is a lecturer at Jindal Global Law School, who completed an LL.M. from PennState Law (Class of ’17). A 2014 graduate of IP University, Chetna worked for two years before enrolling for the LL.M. In this interview, she shares her reasons for taking up a foreign master’s, the LL.M. experience itself, and a whole lot more.
Did you ever consider applying for the LLM right after your undergrad? Or was the plan to always work for a while and then apply?
Indeed, it was my long drawn plan to pursue LLM, but I was keen to understand how the legal industry works and to grow permeable in the environment before applying for masters. So I decided to work for a while in a law firm and then go for LLM. I feel that having work experience always comes handy for master programs.
Due to my gained experience in the field of corporate litigation for two years, I was vivid about choosing my specialization subject, which was Merger & Acquisitions and International Commercial Law.
How did you go about narrowing down the list of schools to apply to? What were some of the schools that you had shortlisted?
In my case, things were very unruffled as I had a clear picture of applying to only those colleges, which could offer subjects of my interest, so I applied for two more American Universities beside Penn State Law. These were Fordham University and the University of Washington, and I was selected in both of them.
As I researched the faculty of M&A and ICL, Penn State Law had an exceptionally great professor like Prof. Samuel Thompson and Prof. Marco Ventoruzzo. They were well-learned people in their respective fields. I also got in touch with Penn State Law alumni, which helped me to finalize my decision.
Also, they granted me an excellent scholarship on my tuition fees.
Was it difficult to apply while also working full time? How early do you think one should start with the application process?
As I reminisce on those days, it is a bit strenuous for people who have demanding jobs where it’s challenging to meet the balance of work and research about the Universities. The primary stage of shortlisting the Universities can be up to one’s neck. I read a lot about colleges and universities while traveling to my office in the metro/cab, and I had swamped weekends working on SOPs and LORs.
It is advisable that candidate should start the process as soon as possible once they decide which semester they have to apply for (fall or spring) it should be followed with intense work on universities their faculties & more importantly how you see yourself in few year.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid?
Yes, They granted me with excellent scholarship. So, more than eighty percent of my tuition fees were waived off.
How was the Penn State LLM experience? Looking back, what were some of the most valuable aspects of the course?
A lifetime experience of learning and exploring.
I not only expertise myself in the field of law but also grew personally as to live alone in entirely a different continents can be challenging and worn-out, but in the end, it will be worth it.
The teaching culture was distinct, as more focus was on the research done by students to understand the analogy of respective subjects. All the faculties were benevolent towards each student, and dedicated. They honed our inquisitiveness to ask tough questions because no change can occur without questioning.
I would certainly believe that Penn State helped me to overcome my shortcomings, pushed me to think beyond the clouds, and choose a non-conventional method. I am indebted to Penn state for introducing me to the diversified classroom because our batch had students from across 40 countries, met amazing people, and we all are still in touch.
All thanks to Penn State.
As an Indian academic, what are the practices followed in Penn State that you think ought to be introduced in Indian law schools?
Well, on the note I should tell you that I never planned to be in academics before my LLM because of conventional method of schooling in India, but when I was working as a research assistant to one of my professor in Penn state. I was intrigued by the method of teaching, which was interactive and expeditionary form of learning.
My major take away form my experience was:
- Academician should focus on certain methods of teaching like student centered approach or expeditionary approach and that method can be varied class to class.
- Textbook knowledge should be incorporated with the variable of ideas that students can experiment and learn from mistakes.
- Most importantly, the conventional way of teaching to make the students learn without understanding the nuance of the subject should be corrigible into intense research and understanding the core of whatever they read or write.
I believe “no great teacher become great without their students” and it’s important for a professor to bridge communication and acknowledge the inquisition of the students.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
Of course, I strongly will recommend graduate students to consider LLM from abroad for a lot of reasons like
- They get global exposure, which will benefit them for future job prospects in India and abroad.
- Adapting new methods of learning can unwind and frame their ideas and knowledge.
Lastly, one should just flow with the process and eventually enjoy the journey because it will be the most sought-after memory.