Wrapping Up

I can’t deny that I’ve been neglecting my blog recently. It was never really my goal to keep it up to date all the time but I had hoped to post on topics of interest as frequently as possible. I haven’t forgotten it but it definitely slid down my priority list as the year went on.  Since spring, I’d settled on a topic for my dissertation (I approached my supervisor who suggested undertaking an study of discrimination set within the sphere of housing injustice), completed the dissertation (after deciding to focus on intersectional discrimination since addressing all the groups that I wanted to address was practically impossible within the space confines) and relocated back to Vancouver. I did manage to finish off the remainder of my duties for the LL.M. Society and my course representative commitments (I arrived home to be greeted by this neat Student Experience Certificate) before spending a wretched two day marathon, packing up and moving out of Nottingham so it wasn’t all sunshine.
I did, however, go on trips to Croatia, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg over the past few months- some of my friends kept questioning whether it was particularly wise to do during our designated working-on-dissertation-period… but I’d exuded a lot of effort getting the bulk of the work done before the end of July and skipped out on a trip back home which almost everyone else managed to accomplish. This made me a little more homesick than I’d been previously but if there’s anything I have to conclude from the entirety of my summer it’s this… explore Europe whenever you can because you don’t know whether you’ll have the opportunity to do so again.
Perhaps this is felt more acutely by myself than my peers since I live in North America. It’s not often that a completely different country is within reach of me, I almost felt a little panicked to see everything I could. I’d hoped to write a different post on my travels but seeing my record so far, I decided it was worth discussing in this one (or you’d never hear my thoughts on it, imagine that!) I also slipped in a train trip to Scotland which was absolutely lovely. We didn’t have time to explore the highlands but it’s worth it to have an excuse to go back.
I can hardly believe that a year has passed by since I started the degree. I’ve attained a stronger understanding of the field I’m interested in and a better direction of where I want to be career-wise. Involving myself in extra-curricular activities was also extremely beneficial- I can’t recommend it enough. It enriched the entire postgraduate experience.
Having to live and work independently was definitely a new venture which I can’t sufficiently describe through words. I feel more confident and better prepared for the adult life that I undeniably have to begin now ( and I definitely delayed it for as long as I could, if you ask my grandmother).
Finally, I think the worst part about leaving is the friends that became family. I’m starting to see the merit in a two-year masters degree- we wouldn’t have to leave each other so soon. It was inevitable anyway, we knew it would happen eventually but could hardly believe it when it did. We’ll all be together for the last time at graduation (assuming that I actually do pass!) and then, that will be it. The end of my LLM experience.

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Exams, Stress and Anxiety

So after the exams are over and the essays have been handed in, what do you do whilst waiting for your friends to catch up?
If you’re me, you’ll do copious amounts of french revision, read Louisa May Alcott novels and spend an entire day bleaching your kitchen and bathroom.
It’s the post-exam depression or, as I like to call it, distress-withdrawal. The feeling of listlessness following the stressful all-nighters and group studies. Personally, I haven’t been nearly as apprehensive about the exam period as some of my coursemates over the past two months. I’ve alternated finishing my own papers with holding peoples’ hands and offering compliments about their respective intelligences like metaphorical brown paper bags.
The thought had occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t genius enough to be suffering from this affliction- the full-out mania that precedes the exam period. Perhaps I’m ambivalent about it because I don’t care as much and won’t do as well as my panic-stricken peers. It’s irrelevant really. I can’t teach myself to look at coursework and tests with trepidation. I never have. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it’s because I realize what a poor reflection of my knowledge they really are. Maybe the thought is just a safety blanket I use to console myself. I won’t know until mid-July anyways so I’m not worried.

I’ve always been fascinated by anxious people. It’s amazing how no amount of coaxing can help them. And what I find even more interesting is how they can remain highly functional in every day life… until the ball drops… at which point all their achievements fade in comparison to an exam that renders them virtually helpless.
Kagan studied temperament and distinguished between highly reactive infants (who exhibited distress when faced with unfamiliar and uncomfortable stimuli), low reactive infants (who were pretty unresponsive) and the inbetweeners. He undertook a longitudinal study that found a correlation between the temperament of the babies and a range of traits including extraversion/nervousness/inhibition in later life which basically rounded out a better understanding of anxiousness and anxiety.
What I like best about that article is the insinuation that anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. High-strung individuals are meticulous, careful and more likely to be hired by Kagan as research assistants. So maybe it is a good idea to try to stress myself out a little now that I don’t have too much to lose.

I’m off to Belgium next week to visit my aunt and uncle who are stationed in Antwerp to await a work visa to Angola. I don’t know anything about Belgium aside from the fact some of them speak Flemish and that their French Fries are supposedly amazing. I haven’t researched it much either which is surprising of me.

The thought of my dissertation leaves me confused and I find it odd that we’re supposed to settle on a topic before receiving grades from our assessments. What if we chose something we turn out to be rubbish at?
I’m torn between social and economic rights, minorities, gender issues and corporate responsibility… I don’t know what to focus on. I want to talk to a professor about it but feel that I need to narrow down on my choice of topics a little before approaching anyone. I’m hoping this trip will help me clear things up a bit. I have a little less than a month to decide. I’m not anxious about it but the anxiety of others is making me feel that I should be :) Old news.

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.