As most readers know by now, 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 LL.M. or otherwise) from different schools across the world.
The FPA (International) is meant to broaden this scope somewhat, getting non-Indian law graduates to discuss their LL.M. experiences in different law schools from across the world. The idea behind the FPA(I) interviews is to help the Indian law graduate better understand her potential cohort, and also expand the LL.M. conversation in general.
Fidan Abdurrahimli is a law graduate from Azerbaijan who enrolled for the LL.M. in International Human Rights Law offered by Lund University. In this FPA, Fidan shares her reasons for choosing this particular course, her expectations from the LL.M. itself, as well as the challenges and joys of pursuing a master’s degree outside your home country.
Stepping away from the LL.M. for a moment – how is the situation in your home country now? Do you foresee any fresh violence in the near future?
I guess by “violence” you mean the military actions of occupants and/or separatist in Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Probably, you are informed that a trilateral declaration has been signed by the governments of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia in November.
Although the active phase of the conflict has ended, incidents are recorded in the conflict zone from time to time.
There are still some armed Armenian volunteers/soldiers hiding in the areas liberated from the occupation and they try to attack Azerbaijani positions and servicemen. I do not think that there will be a new escalation in the near future, at least due to the presence of the Russian peacekeepers in the field, but I think that the problem has not been completely solved yet: there are still unanswered questions.
We have to be a bit more patient to see what the time brings. Hopefully, everything will be good and everyone will live in peace in the region.
What got you interested in the study of law? And, once you had worked for a while, what made you consider a master’s abroad?
It may sound cliché, but I decided to become a lawyer in my early teenage years even though my understanding of law was limited then. I think growing up in a country with many problems (newly independent state, war, economic crisis, political instabilities, social problems etc.) and the feeling to fight for justice living inside me brought me to this field.
When I was at law school, I was glad that I had made the right choice.
Law completes me.
I was considering studying abroad even in my secondary school years. After graduation from law school, I felt that this was not enough; I had to continue and advance my knowledge. To be honest, I was not completely satisfied with the quality of the bachelor education too. I was eager to learn more and get acquainted with western legal education.
Before choosing a specific field of law that I wanted to specialise in, I thought that I needed to work and get some legal practice. So, I worked almost for three years before pursuing my master education in Sweden.
Given your field of interest, international human rights, what were the other schools that you applied to? Why narrow down on Lund University?
To be honest, considering several factors, which were making studying law in Sweden appealing to me, I applied for law schools in Sweden. The LL.M programme in International Human Rights Law at Lund University was my first choice as I had a deep interest and wanted to specialise in this field.
My second preference was the European Business Law programme, again at Lund University. The third and fourth programmes were Intellectual Property Law at Uppsala University and International Commercial Arbitration at Stockholm University.
To narrow down on Lund University, I was helped not only by academic indicators of the university but also Lund as a city. Lund University is among the top 100 world universities and the best in Sweden. Also, the LL.M programme in International Human Rights Law that Lund University offers is among the top 10 in this field in Europe. Furthermore, Lund is a small and lovely student city in the south of Sweden which makes its climate milder than in the north. Last but not least, living expenses in Lund are more affordable than those in the big cities.
All these facts helped me to prioritise Lund University over others.
What were some of your expectations from the LLM program, and were these met?
High-quality legal education was my biggest expectation of studying in Sweden. Also, I was hoping to improve my legal and social skills and to gain new ones. And yes, absolutely, the two years’ master programme met all my expectations. In addition to obtaining high-quality education, I strengthened my legal skills, such as legal argumentation, research, legal writing etc., and widened my horizons in different ways.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid?
Yes, I applied for the Swedish Institute Scholarships. The Visby Programme Scholarship was one of the scholarship programs offered by the Swedish Institute. This scholarship was designed for the citizens of 7 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.
Each year, around 65 students in total from these countries were awarded the scholarship. I was extremely happy and proud to be one of those chosen students. The scholarship included tuition fee, monthly living allowance, medical insurance, travel grants and membership to the scholarship holders’ network.
How was the LL.M. experience itself? How did you find yourself using your work experience to support your studies at university?
I loved my time at Lund University and in Sweden generally. It created memories that will last my entire life. The academic atmosphere was very different than what I used to have back in my country.
All exams were take-home, the academic staff was very helpful and friendly, we were focusing only on a course during a term which was helping us to dig deeper on that specific subject, teamwork was an important element of our studies, reading materials were announced beforehand and we were going to the lectures prepared which were making the classes more interactive etc.
You are not approached as a student only but also as an individual whose opinions are important and valued.
Actually, my professional experience was not directly related to the human rights law but working as a lawyer I gained some skills naturally, such as problem-solving, which helped me especially during the exams. This experience allowed me to approach the scenario-based exam questions as real legal questions that needed to be solved.
Lastly, would you have any advice for the foreign trained lawyer who is considering a master’s abroad?
I think it is always good to study abroad if you have an opportunity. Maybe, you will not use in your country all the knowledge you got abroad due to objective reasons, but the environment in a foreign country itself also brings such advantages that you will benefit from in one or another way either in your professional career or personal/social life.
I would advise those who want to pursue a master’s degree in law abroad to firstly decide which field of law they want to specialize in. This is important because having a strong interest in a specific field will help you to overcome the difficulties that you may encounter in your studies.
Then, you need to make comprehensive research to find out the universities that offer those programmes. LLM Guide is a useful platform for this end.
Never stop believing in your capacity and ability, you will need them when you are away from home.
It is not easy to move abroad; it comes with challenges. It is not an exception that a disparate country, people, culture, long hours of study and stressful exam periods may overwhelm you sometimes, but do you not think that it is also a good way to discover yourself and develop your personality while overcoming these challenges?
Believe me, it is worth each second.
At the end, you will enjoy every bit of your hard work.
Good luck to everyone!