International Law versus Political Science (Part II)

When I was initially researching masters programs, I was encouraged by a professor to pursue international law. I was unsure about whether my background in political science and criminology had given me enough of a foundation to study international law at a postgraduate level. My first consideration surrounded the fact that I’d be learning alongside lawyers. The second involved the divergence from politics and what seemed like a wild foray into the world of law.
It appeared to be a good choice. The law is secure. It seemed to be more practical than something like politics which is essentially based on theoretical concepts and is extremely changeable.
But in the few months that I’ve been immersed international law, I’ve come to realize that the subject seems solid but at times, it may prove to be useless in fact.
The issue becomes complicated when I look at specific case studies- states overlooking the human rights violations of other states, the Security Council churning out coercive resolutions that are acceded to by the international community, new nations who can barely organize themselves never mind try to comply with their international obligations…
It is so often that heads of states and other authorities will either manipulate the law or ignore it all together for their own interests. That’s politics.
Politics is about how people do act instead of how they should act (the latter being international law).
Do I think international law is useless? Of course not, it has a mountain of potential.
But the past few months of study have given me a different approach regarding the role of politics in law. Maybe it should have been obvious from the start but states do not always comply. But following that line, a lot of states do comply. Political science has helped me discern why and when they comply and do not comply. I can see how states do act along with how they should act.
I think I’ve learned a lot by reconciling my understanding of political science with what I’m learning right now. It’s definitely been very insightful and has contributed towards rounding out my knowledge about how the world works.

Getting the most out of university outside the coursework

I was particularly excited about the new semester. Although I find the fact that three of my seminars take place on Thursdays fairly cringe-worthy, it does leave me with some spare time to get involved in other activities. Currently, I’m enrolled in basic french lessons, working with the Human Rights Law Centre, representing student views as a course rep and serving as Vice-President of the LLM Society. I never intended on becoming so deeply involved in extra-curricular activities but I don’t regret an instant… especially since some of our professors recently held a talk about careers in human rights law and how there are few and far between. They highlighted the need to stand out among your peers and to do whatever you can to gain skills aside from whatever we learn in the program itself.
As course representative, I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to convince my course mates to engage themselves in societies and voluntary work. Some are more receptive to the idea than others. The excuse I hear most often is that the workload stemming from the LLM is too heavy to consider doing anything other than just that.
I try to counter these excuses with two main arguments: Firstly, that everyone in our program is brilliant and will receive brilliant marks. How can employers distinguish between them without something tangible aside from their thesis topic? Secondly, that added work doesn’t always have to be tedious and boring. Planning a student conference is a great way to develop your team-building skills while having a lot of fun with your peers. Becoming a social secretary for a society allows you to display your event-planning capabilities while meeting new people. As long as you manage your time properly, you can gain a very wholesome university experience that doesn’t come at the cost of sacrificing your personal life. University is one of the only times in our lives when we’ll be given the opportunity to hang out with a large number of people who share the same passion as us. Why not make the most of it?
I’m convinced that the biggest lesson to be learned by students today is to rise above the bipolarity of endless readings and alcohol-fueled nights to find a happy medium that will allow them to work with others in developing their abilities which will, in turn, reflect really well while job hunting. It’s a win-win situation.