Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Gina and I’m a final year law student at the University of Sydney. I graduated from a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) in 2017. I’m currently in the final semester of my law degree.
What motivated you to undertake an offshore unit?
If you’re one of the few people who didn’t go on exchange during university, then you’d probably be doing one of the following: sitting at home in regret; browsing obsessively through photos of people on exchange; or hunting for alternative study abroad opportunities.
The University of Sydney offers application to study a Media Law: Comparative Perspectives unit at Cambridge University. I applied on a whim. This unit was taught over the space of a week at Gonville and Caius College and consisted of a series of lectures delivered by esteemed barristers and solicitors working in the UK as well as a lecturer from Sydney Law School. Doing offshore units in other countries during the university break also meant that I got the chance to extend my trip and go travelling elsewhere - after my Cambridge course, I did some travelling around Europe and before/after my course in Nepal, I went travelling in South-East Asia and then did a trek in Nepal!
What did the course involve?
Media Law: Comparative Perspectives
The unit ran alongside another unit called Advanced Obligations and Remedies, and we all lived on campus. Classes ran from 9am to 4pm and we were given morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. After class, we had the rest of the afternoon to enjoy all that Cambridge had to offer (namely, punting on the River Cam with drinks in hand and exploring the different colleges). We also had a reading day to enjoy the sights of Cambridge, including seeing the apple tree where Isaac Newton discovered gravity, the chapel and the museum. We even rented bikes and rode them to nearby Grantchester for tea and scones.
The course material itself was fascinating. Safe to say, Media Law has all the juicy cases. UK barristers shared their experiences working on high-profile cases, including PJS v News Group Newspapers, and their insights on UK defamation law. By the end of the week, I’d heard the facts of the Naomi Campbell defamation case about twenty times over. All class time was completed in Cambridge and the only remaining coursework was a 6,000 word research essay.
Nepal: Human Rights and Development
Having enjoyed studying overseas at Cambridge and hearing positive feedback from friends, I applied to study in Nepal at the end of January this year. This unit couldn’t be anymore different to the one I did in Cambridge. This two-week course was packed back to back everyday from morning to night and comprised of ⅓ site visits, ⅓ guest lectures and ⅓ lectures. “Hot” water was more like warm water and WiFi was intermittent. Although I was exhausted by the end of the two weeks, with half our class struck by food poisoning, we were able to visit some incredible local NGOs and other organisations, including UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme,and the World Bank. We heard from local leaders and witnessed life outside the main cities in Kathmandu.
We also visited a regional town called Melamchi to learn more about the Melamchi Water Supply Project. Despite the cold showers, lack of heating, and the bumpy, claustrophobic bus journey, Melamchi was one of my favourite parts of the trip. Safe to say, this was truly ‘experiential’ learning. We spoke to locals who lived in the Melamchi Valley for generations, farming and growing their own food. During our stay there, we also visited a primary school up a mountain. Our lecturer claimed it was “20 minutes uphill, then flat” but an hour after walking uphill, wondering where the path was going to turn flat, we realised we had been tricked.
How have your experiences abroad shaped your career aspirations?
In Cambridge, we heard valuable insights from barristers and in-house counsel who were Sydney Law School alumni or Australian expats. Their diverse practical experience compelled me to consider working overseas with a major organisation.
In Nepal, witnessing the incredible work of local NGOs and the challenges they overcame reminded me of my privilege and motivated me to make the most of my degree and career. Often in our final years of university, we are too stressed to realise how fortunate we are to live in a developed country like Australia. It was incredibly inspiring to meet other law students from Kathmandu School of Law who were determined to undertake further study abroad and use this knowledge to improve living conditions in Nepal.
Do you have any tips for students who are contemplating an offshore placement?
Don’t hesitate! These two offshore units gave me some of my favourite memories from law school. Unlike exchange programs which consider your WAM amongst other things, acceptance into these offshore units were on a first come, first served basis. Some offshore programs at my university fill up in a matter of minutes, so check when applications open and get in ASAP.
If you’re worried about money being a barrier, the government offers OS-HELP loans of varying amounts. This amount is usually higher for study in Asia. I was able to take out one for both of my trips to help fund costs of airfare and in-country program costs.
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