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 (an LLM or otherwise) from different universities across the world.

Anjana Parvathy
Anjana Parvathy

Anjana Parvathy completed an LLM (Finance) from the Institute for Law & Finance (Goethe University Frankfurt) in 2018. In this freewheeling conversation, she talks about how she went about planning her finances for the course, studying and working in Germany, and a whole lot more.  

 

I will come to the LLM experience in a bit, but for now let us focus on funding the LLM. How did you plan your own finances, what were some of the loan providers (if multiple providers) did you look at, and what were some of the non-tuition expenses you budgeted for?

The biggest hurdle in pursing an LLM abroad is coming up with the necessary funding. For my LLM studies, I opted for a combination of self-financing and a bank loan. Upon acceptance of an offer, some universities require you to pay an acceptance deposit equal to a certain percentage of your tuition fees.

This is the time when you are just applying for a bank loan so you may have to remit the amount from your own sources (savings, family assistance, etc). 

For the rest of the tuition fees and expenses, I took the SBI Global Ed-vantage scheme offered by the State Bank of India. I also came to know of the DAAD scholarships while I was there.

Some of the non-tuition expenses that I budgeted for was housing/accommodation and utility bills, food and necessities, health insurance, public transport (covered by the semester fees in Germany), photocopies/books.

I also accounted for optional german classes. 

We spoke about the different positions that foreign students can take up while studying, starting with an internship, and then a research assistant. Could you tell me a bit about how one can apply for these positions, and the range of pay?

In Germany, you are allowed to take up student jobs while pursuing your studies. However, these are subject to rules and conditions prescribed by the country (and your university). For instance, when I was studying, I had an option to work for around 20 hours a week, along with your studies, as a research assistant or work student.

There was also a condition in Germany that under your student visa, you are permitted to work for 120 full days or 240 half days. During semester breaks, you can pursue a full time internship. I got my internship since it was a mandatory requirement of the course. However, one could apply for such positions through the company/law firm careers page, or through Linkedin jobs.

The pay depends on where you are interning, but it is my assumption that you could expect around 800-1,000 euros a month for an internship, or 15 to 25 euros an hour, as a research assistant. 

One of the interesting bits you mentioned was the tax refund that you, as an international student, can claim towards education expenses. How did you find out about this provision, and can you elaborate on how this can be used? 

Since I had begun interning half way through my course, I consulted a tax consultant to file my tax returns. It was through him that I came to know of the fact that certain other expenses as a student may be tax deductible. You can file your returns retroactively for up to four years.

German tax law is complicated so I would advise you to invest in a tax consultant. He may charge you anything between 100 to 150 euros an hour for consultation. 

Given that LLM applicants regularly approach you for advice on the ILF LLM program, what would you like more applicants to know? Specifically, what are the factors/costs they should take into account but usually do not? 

Books and photocopies are often missed, some countries restrict you from taking photocopies because of the copyright laws or you may want to own a book for future references.

Secondly, understand the country’s student benefits as well, along with university scholarships and other things.

Lastly, it is also my understanding that some universities offer to match the cost of tuition of competing universities.

Alright, coming to the LLM itself, why did you choose this particular course? And, with the benefit of hindsight, what were some of the tangible benefits of the course from a professional point of view? 

I chose this course because of a) its location – situated in the heart of Europe and important financial hub, Frankfurt; and b) curriculum – the course is open to both, law and economics students and the curriculum is interdisciplinary and offers a combination of law and economic subjects.

The course is very practical and with the internship, it only adds on to your practical experience. In hindsight, I got to interact with 50 other students from 20 different countries. some of whom I am still in touch with, so I am grateful for the network and exposure. 

Final question – is there anything in particular that more Indian law graduates should know about the foreign LLM experience?

For me, the experience was an eye-opener.

Obviously your knowledge pool increases, but so does your confidence while interacting with people.