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.
Simran Singh is a 2020 graduate from the National University of Singapore, where she took up the LL.M. in International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution. In this FPA, the ILS Pune ’19 law graduate discusses her reasons for choosing NUS, the LL.M. experience itself, and a whole lot more.
As an undergraduate student, when did you decide to enrol for an LL.M.? Was the plan to always go for a specialised LL.M. or did you also consider a general LL.M.?
An LLM was always on my to-do list, I just wasn’t sure when. It was in and around my 5th year at law school when I started considering it seriously.
I did not consider a general LLM, my plan was always to opt for a specialization. I shortlisted two options, either a coursework that inculcated International Taxation or a coursework that offered International Dispute Resolution.
Given the specialised nature of your interest, what were the other schools that you applied to? Why narrow down on NUS?
Like I mentioned, it was only in my final semester of law school that I decided to pursue an LLM. I was evidently short on time to send in my application to Universities I’d initially shortlisted.
However, I managed applying to Queen Mary University London, the University of Glasgow, the University of Auckland, University College Dublin, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney and to the National University of Singapore in time.
Out of all of these, I got an acceptance letter from all barring the University of Sydney.
Choosing NUS out of my options was a calculated move considering the ever increasing demand for alternate dispute resolution in the Asia Pacific region. Also, to add to the pros list was the fact that Singapore in itself is an arbitration hub.
Other strong pointers were proximity to India and most importantly the course duration. NUS offers an LLM coursework which is laid out over two semesters, intensively scrutinized over the span of 9-10 months.
This, in comparison to other University courses, is a much shorter span which seemed idealistic to me as I was reluctant to commit for a longer duration. In addition to that, NUS has been consistently ranked as number 1 in the Asia Pacific region, and was then ranked 10th in the world for the course I’d opted for.
All these reasons in cumulative led me to choose NUS.
Any advice on the LL.M. application itself? What do you think worked for you when it came to the personal statement?
My biggest lesson learnt from the application-in-transit process is the importance of time management. Starting early and scheduling accordingly could have helped me diversify my options.
Another key pointer would be document organisation. Gathering transcripts, internship and diploma certificates and other important documents in advance is a massive time cutter.
With regards to my statement of purpose, I’d like to believe that being honest worked in my favour. I, like most prospective applicants, was completely clueless on how to get started with my statement of purpose.
I gave in to my millennial ways and searched the internet for sample personal statements. Most SOP’s online or at least the ones I’d come across followed a tragic storyline highlighting some sort of deprivation. After spending hours on the internet the only thing that I was sure of was to not follow the same pattern.
Highlighting one’s familiarity and passion for a niche subject is always better than beating around the bush. Seeking help from my seniors helped me structure my essay the right way and I was good to go.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid?
I did not apply for financial aid.
How was the LL.M. experience itself? What were some of the biggest differences between the LL.M. and your undergraduate learning experience?
It is rightly put that true learning begins at the end of your comfort zone and that’s exactly how I’d like to quote my LLM experience. My time spent at NUS was truly enthralling and made me challenge my capabilities at every step.
The biggest difference between the LLM and my undergraduate coursework was that NUS was completely paperless! The modules demanded constant practical application whereas, the lectures were more discussion oriented. All in one, an LL.M. from NUS has been a journey of a lifetime both academically and emotionally.
How did NUS respond to the Covid pandemic? How did this affect the LL.M. experience?
While the pandemic caught most universities off guard, NUS responded to it very systematically. The faculty went to all lengths possible to mitigate effects of the pandemic on its students. They eased the students into the e-learning process and made sure that our curriculum was not hindered.
They went to the extent of providing financial aid to stranded students and even set up a mental health forum for students in need.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of such an institution that didn’t shrug off its responsibilities towards its students in such unprecedented times.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
Start working on your profile well in advance and research thoroughly on the course module. Every university has something unique to offer, make sure to weigh in the pros and cons in terms of your desired expectation instead of blindly banking on online rankings.
Taking into consideration the current global pandemic – hold tight and do not lose hope. Don’t be fixated, be open to new ideas, online courses and gap years if need be.
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