In between recovering from final exams and submitting clerkship applications, I spent my winter break completing a short study programme on international human rights law at the University of Oxford. As a law student, I was challenged to think, critique and reflect like I had never done before. It was the craziest, hardest, best and most rewarding experience in my short twenty-three years of living.
Admittedly, international human rights law is cluttered and sometimes confusing. I spent a lot of my time trying to contextualise the abundance of issues presented to us under international criminal law, war and peace conflicts, poverty, gender and women's rights, and corporations' social and environmental responsibilities. We also examined how systems of international law still struggle to effectively address these. But the overarching philosophies and principles of human rights were common threads that ran through all these issues.
During the program I met law students from around the world (who also joked in Latin, had stationery addictions and coffee flowing through their veins), as well as former judges and lawyers who work in human rights commissions and international non-profit organisations – all navigating this realm of international law.
I was also learning from world experts, those who contribute to drafting international protocols and have steadfastly and inspiringly dedicated their life’s work to promoting a more stable world. Perhaps the most poignant moments of my trip occurred in class one afternoon. I asked a fellow student, who is completing an LLM and works in the public service in Washington DC, what her motivations were in coming to the course. She simply said, “I want to see change, to learn how to affect change and I want to contribute to a better world”.
Studying at Oxford meant that I had the chance to travel, to (poetically) live at one of the oldest educational institutions in the world, to indulge in not having to calculate train times from uni to home and simultaneously fall in love with the London Underground, to learn how to avoid large crowds of Olympic tourists (hint: head to Scotland), to grapple with the fact that Australia is very far from the rest of world, and to teach others about apparently “strange” Australian words and phrases like “jumper”, “arvo” and “have a quick squiz”.
But this time also meant that I got to step out of my comfort zone and make an international set of hilarious, articulated and amazingly intelligent friends that I’m already planning to visit in the near future. And maybe I got a little too familiar with the pubs and sampling the different kinds of cider that were on offer. Actually, I retract that; you can never have too much cider and can always learn from a night out at a pub in Oxford.
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