On the Precipice of Hard Work: Taboo Challenges of University Life

University lifestyle is outwardly and undeniably demanding. There is a requirement for rigorous diligence, the ability to absorb a wealth of content and detail, opportunities for international study, life-long friendships and fantastic career prospects. But beyond this, students must come to terms with several harsh, brutal truths; some of which are far more prevalent and concerning for undergrads. I believe my familiarity with various personal challenges may elucidate some of these realities.

Perhaps the most prevalent psychological encounter for students is adjusting to the life of a university student. Even for those who appear to smoothly transition, several difficult obstacles must be addressed. Indeed, there is an essential need to balance – students can often be suddenly confronted with endless time, and little plan for what to do with such time. For me, this incited a hollowness to my daily routine.

43180690_161206901482317_2296936965028708352_n
“Many shy away from communication and transparency, due to fear of appearing weak, spineless or soft.”

Simultaneously, fitting in also becomes an immediate preoccupation. You can assume a new identity, entertain new experiences, excel, fail; there is potential for each of these possibilities at university. It’s something that people may or may not have mastered in high school, or even from early primary school.

But it’s so materially different at university.

I lived at Mannix College for my first academic year, in 2017. I – subject to my perception of my circumstances at the time – struggled, daily and significantly. At college, you are indeed, to quote William Henley, the master of your fate and you are awarded full autonomy in all your duties. I loved my time at Mannix College and I hold fond memories and friendships that were founded in those halls. But, for those who have never spent a night in a boarding house, the college routine can be very overwhelming. Sure, I maintained a 4.0 GPA; sure, I received awards for my grades; sure, I stood out in my classes. But did I focus on building relationships? Was I content with my social outreach? Were “heck yeah!” or “sure!” my usual responses to social invites? No. I lived in a textbook and I – therefore – became one.

Having reflected upon that, where do we go from here? My open and immediate advice is to talk to people. Many shy away from communication and transparency, due to fear of appearing weak, spineless or soft.

“For males particularly, there is a familiar historical convention to leave personal psychological matters unsaid, to, rather, bury these issues deep down away. I urge nobody to do this, unless you are prepared for a life of internal anxiety that can envelope your later life.”

Talk to someone. Call your parents. Meet with a friend. Write it down. Tangibly project your emotions out into the world with no fear of inviting social labels and intention to be heard. Because more than we realise and often contrary to our perception, somebody is usually listening and willing help.

Every student faces different circumstances; everyone is perceptually separate, even only slightly. And if there was a universal remedy to these issues, it would be identified by now. Take time to understand yourself and don’t be afraid to go slowly. Perhaps, even only for a few, it’s a matter of private perspective.

Look within – be patient – remember that there are greater forces behind you in this life.


Patrick Stratmann (Guest Contribution)

Patrick Stratmann is a 2nd year Bachelor of Law’s (Hons)/Bachelor of Arts student, presently working as a paralegal at Youthlaw. He is currently developing a freelance documentary, ‘Exploits of a Freshman’, that explores the mental health challenges of first year students directly transitioning from Year 12. Find him on Instagram @patstrat30

Under the Pressure: A Personal Account of Struggling and Surviving

Have you ever done anything because you thought it is what you should be doing? It came to me right after I met up with a friend – the question that lingered at the back of my mind and had me re-evaluating everything I was doing in my life.

In law school, it is inevitable that we compare ourselves to people around us, regardless of whether we know them personally or not. We put people on pedestals without seeing  behind their mask into their struggles or failures. In fact, some of the most accomplished people I’ve known are only where they are at because they’ve experienced numerous setbacks and learnt how to deal with them.

On the outside, my friend was one of those students who succeeded in anything she did – she was extremely involved in clubs, sociable, decent grades and even a job at a law firm. However, the reality was that she has failed 2 units, struggled with her choice of degree and has faced mental health issues.

For her, coming straight out of a high pressure environment from being in a selective High School and being thrown in the throes of law school meant she did not have time to process what she wanted. Coming from an Asian migrant background, there is additional pressure to follow your parents’ wishes and aim to please them.  This was what led her to a degree in Comm/Law instead of Arts/Law. This set the stage for her to feel as though she was an imposter in a world of high flyers. Her fear of not being good enough caused her to join extra-curriculars and enrol in units that she thought she had to do as opposed to what she wanted to do. By trying to conform, she thought she could create this insulating bubble that would comfort her, but instead she had imprisoned herself, and had thrown away the key.

Ultimately, this inability to cope with her choices while feeling like a sell out sent her spiraling to rock bottom. Yet, that was the wake up call she needed to change her approach towards life. It was even more confronting for her to accept that she had an issue as she came from an Asian/migrant background where depression is seen as a weakness.

Your journey in law school is a personal journey and should not be dictated by anyone else. It is about enriching your own personal human experience and doing things borne out of your passions.

How she got through it

  • The first step is always admitting there is a problem and committing to recovery.  However, just because someone else may be encountering similar issues doesn’t mean you should make an excuse for yourself to neglect your mental health. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t think of yourself as less of a person for seeking help.
  • Have a good relationship with a psychologist and follow the recommendations made by them. Make the most of services offered at Monash.
  • Know that recovery takes a long time. Understand that being in the right headspace doesn’t mean you never get triggered, but you learn how to be less affected by your triggers.
  • Trial and error. Everyone is different and just because something works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you. For some, going to the gym make be a mood booster, but for her, it contributed to her anxiety and made her more self-conscious.
  • Give thought to what you like doing and want to do. Personalise your recovery to your needs.
  • Rediscover your hobbies and interests.

What her journey can teach all of us

Her journey towards recovery gave her the chance to reflect on qualities that contributed to her leadership skills. Part of being a leader is to be able to shed light into one’s own vulnerabilities to start conversations and connect with others. Admitting your failures doesn’t mean you are a failure but shows your strength in opening up to others. The legal profession is one that has a high likelihood of depression and anxiety, but for her, having dealt with mental health issues means that she is able to better manage it in future. It took most of her young adulthood to recover and realise that failure is just relative to today. Let’s be honest, in 10 year’s time, no one is going to criticise your abilities as a lawyer simply because you failed a unit in law school.

For her, the experience of wanting to give up but persevering nonetheless, only fuelled her desire to be a lawyer and gave her the resilience that is needed in this profession. For example, despite being rejected from clerkships, she has managed to find a job in law that aligns with her interest of innovation and social impact.  (There are many other pathways and fields in law other than commercial law and you shouldn’t do it simply because everyone else is. You are not a failure for going off the beaten track and being brave enough to seek out your own proverbial north star. It is important to find your strengths and passions. Have the strength to forge your own path and don’t view that as being second best.

We all have our own path and we need to believe that we will reach the end ultimately. Just because the road may be longer and bumpier for some of us, don’t detour and take the road everyone takes. There is no one definite path that is destined for success. Remember that we all have different destinations and every experience, good and bad, matters immensely.

An Anonymous Contribution 

 

 

Keys to Success: Tips & Advice for International Students

Do you ever feel disheartened whenever you hear people talk about their internship or job at a law firm? I think as law students, we have an inherently competitive nature and even more so for international students as there is more at stake. Although international students may be disadvantaged by the limited working hours and firms that do hire international law students, you do offer unique insights such as intercultural competence, an international education and eclectic experiences that sets you apart from local applicants. Understanding what makes you stand out and highlighting these skills is a key way to get your foot through the door.

Important things to note

  • Your student visa enables you to work up to 40 hours per fortnight during semester and unlimited hours during semester break
  • Not all firms accept international students, so it is good to do some research. The Social Justice & Equity Guide, which can be found outside the LSS office, offers a snapshot of some firms which do accept international students.

Here are some top insight tips from recruiters and international students who have secured internships and grad jobs.


1. Have a holistic degree

As international students, it is understandable to place a strong emphasis on your grades and prioritise studies since your aim of studying abroad is to get a degree. However, this is not only unhealthy for your mental health, it also fails to show your ability to multi-task and manage your time. Simply excelling at academic endeavours is insufficient to succeed in Australia’s dynamic environment. It is equally important to have a colourful extracurricular to demonstrate your leadership, time management, ability to work collaboratively and various other skills. Joining clubs, competitions and volunteering are some ways that indicate this. However, do not go crazy signing up for everything and overworking yourself. Pick 1-2 things that you are genuinely interested in and stick with that. This highlights your interest beyond studying law and also gives you an opportunity to destress and pursue something you like. It is also a great way to make new friends. So why not kill two birds with one stone – you get to impress recruiters and improve your mental wellbeing by taking time off studies.

2. Any experience is valuable

You do not need to intern at the Big 4 firms every summer to impress recruiters. What really stands out to them are the skills you have acquired or demonstrated, and your willingness to learn. Sure, stating you’ve done a summer internship at Allens may be impressive but sometimes smaller firms can be equally beneficial as you are more likely to get hands on experience. If you plan on interning in your home country, try not to focus too much on local top tier firms but rather pick a firm which specialises in a field you are interested in or an international firm such as Clifford Chance or Ashurst. This is because Australian firms may not be aware of the brand name of firms in your home country, however, they do recognise the experience. It is important to emphasise skills you acquired or demonstrated that is universal across law firms eg. Legal research.

If you are unable to secure an internship, fret not. Volunteering is another great way to learn and gain exposure in the legal scene. There are plenty of legal aid centres which provide amazing legal opportunities for students. Some suggestions include MOLs (obviously), asylum seeker centre and the Springvale Monash legal Service. The Victorian Bar also provides barrister shadowing or mentor opportunities for any law student, which are also great ways to gain exposure in the legal field. It is also offers valuable networking opportunities and insight.

3. Polish up your CV

Your CV is a reflection of you as a professional is a way you convey who you are and your capabilities to a potential firm before they meet you. This is why having an  updated, neat and well-written resume and cover letter is always a selling point, as it helps win half the battle of any application. It is also important to ensure your CV is tailored to the specific job that you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a paralegal, they may be less interested in your amazing customer service skills compared to a waitressing job. Monash also offers lots of tips and services to help ensure your CV is well-written. Careers connect usually has resume writing sessions and even appointments for someone to review your CV and cover letter, as well as mock interviews. This is also a good time to create a linkedin if you don’t have one

4. Be authentic

Although it may be too early to pick a specialty, try to identify some possibilities and pursue firms specialising in areas that genuinely interest you. Firms enjoy seeing students who are authentic and have passion as opposed to chasing another title to add to their CV. Try to highlight why the firm/area of law interests you, your plans in the future and how that firm fits into that plan. I’ve had friends email firms specialising their area of interest to ask for short unpaid work experience and managed to secure an internship. This evinces their desire for the experience as opposed to the position itself. It is also important not to be discouraged if you are rejected. Everyone experiences rejection, even the best of students. This is why pursuing your passion is key to staying motivated.

5. Networking

Networking is not only a great way to spot opportunities and build professional relationships, but it also helps you boost your self-confidence and social skills. More importantly, you can better understand a firm’s culture and what they are looking for. This gives you an insight on how you can position your cover letter as well as allow people within the firm to form a good image of you. Furthermore, it allows you to reconsider if the culture and work environment is suited to what you are looking for. Business matters aside, networking allows you to widen your social circle and meet people beyond your usual social demographic. You are able to build interpersonal skills and learn how to engage with people from diverse backgrounds which is also a quality that recruiters look out for. Many of these people can also provide insight that expands your knowledge and inform you of opportunities that you may not have discovered.

Ultimately, there is no magic formula for finding an internship. However, it is important to put yourself out there, try new opportunities that come out and attend events. Regardless of whether the events are social or professional, they offer you a chance to network and learn from people around you.

If you feel like you are being unfairly discriminated against in the work place, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman here.

Written by Priya Naresh Kumar (Co-founder)

 

 

 

 

Beating the First-Year Blues

Everyone feels down and out sometimes.

This is just a natural part of life, and first year law students are no exception to this. Whether it be in your first few weeks of classes, halfway through the semester or even as you are leaving to go on Christmas break, pretty much all first years will at some point question what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who they are doing it for.

Chances are, you’re reading this and thinking ‘yeah this is me right now!’ Well you’re definitely not alone and lucky for you we’re here to help you out! Here are some tried and tested ideas that may prove helpful in overcoming this first-year slump. Give them a go!


Change it up

From experience, change really is as good as a holiday. If you’re feeling like you’re just going through the same motions every day, chances are you need to spice things up in your life! Break your routine and give a new sport a try, get in touch with a Monash club or try meeting new people. There’s plenty to do if you go looking!

Set yourself a challenge

One of the best ways to beat the first-year blues is to concentrate on a specific and realistic goal. Not only will you feel accomplished when its achieved, but you can also reward yourself! An example of a realistic goal is trying to do all of the readings for the week. A bad goal however, would be trying to get 100% on your assignment.

See a careers adviser

If you’re really feeling off track and questioning if law really is the right course for you, don’t hesitate to drop in and visit Career Connect at Monash. They provide free course and career advise which can be really handy to point you in the right direction.

Think about your long-term goals

Sometimes when you’re feeling down, the best thing to do is to think about the future. We all go through hard times but sometimes you just have to remember the incredibly cliché saying ‘there’s no sunshine without the rain’. Try to think about how your law degree is going to benefit you in the future and all of the opportunities it provides, rather than how much study you are drowning in study – remember this is only temporary.

Talk to someone

Often we feel much better after we have vented all of our worries and concerns to somebody. A good rant may just be what you need. Find somebody you trust, whether that be a family member, a good friend or somebody independent of your personal life such as a counsellor. Sit down and talk with them about how you are feeling. You might not have figured things out by the end of it, but they may offer you the direction or reassurance you need.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are really struggling to stay afloat, or you feel as though your mental health is collapsing, please please please don’t be afraid to ask for help! Monash has plenty of support practices in place to help you get through this. Whether it be seeking special consideration for your upcoming assignment, or going to visit Monash counselling services, these services are all there for you to utilise free of charge and it is all very accessible.

Hopefully these tips have provided you with some idea of what you can do to smash these first-year blues out of the park! Below we have a list of valuable resources and contacts that may prove helpful in moving forward.

 

Resources

Monash Careers Connect

For all things careers, Careers Connect is your way to go!

Either pop in to see them on the bottom floor of Campus Centre or call 9905 3151

Monash University Counselling Services

Open 8am-5pm every weekday

Drop in at 21 Chancellors Walk, Campus Centre (Clayton Campus) or call 9905 3020 to book in a free appointment.

Headspace

If you would like to chat to somebody outside of uni grounds headspace is a great resource designed specifically for youths struggling with mental health.

The best way to get in touch is by calling 1800 650 890

Written by Claudia Opie

Doubt about your Degree: Is it too late to be having Second Thoughts?

I spent all of High School knowing I was going to Law School. That’s right. I was that really extra kid on Career Day who knew exactly what grown-up job I wanted and how to get there. But once the excitement of actually getting in and going to endless social events wore off, then the dread began to take over.

I’m pretty sure I’ve had an existential crisis every semester about whether or not I belonged in Law. I would begin the semester motivated to attend every class and do all the readings, but with every lecture that flew over my head and for every mediocre grade, fear and anxiety would start to kick in.

“Fear would taunt me into believing that the very thing I’ve spent my life working towards was the wrong path, or that others would think I wasn’t smart enough to hack it. I dreaded the idea that I’d racked up thousands of dollars in student loans for no reason and would have no job to pay it off.”

What made it worse was that everyone else seemed to be coping really well, getting better grades, and being selected for legal jobs while I was constantly questioning if I was even cut out to be a lawyer or if I should just cut my losses and switch degrees.

But after getting real with many of my close friends, I realised that at least 80% of them have had doubts about whether they chose the right degree. I have friends that are only here because they got the ATAR and didn’t know what else to study. Others spent years trying to transfer into Law only to transfer back out again. Many people experienced the frustration of investing hours into studying, only to still receive average marks. In fact, the very people who I thought were having it easy were the ones freaking out the most.

Here’s the thing: You’re not a failure because you have doubts about studying law. It doesn’t mean you’re not smart enough or qualified enough. It doesn’t mean you’re a cop out. It just means your passion lies elsewhere. You might not know exactly what that is yet but don’t doubt that you have very unique talents and abilities.  You have to trust that if you’re here, and you’ve made it this far, it’s for a reason.

Next Steps

Sleep on it.

Don’t make any major life decisions when you’re feeling overly emotional. Assess if these feelings are only coming up because of a bad grade, you don’t know how to do the Corps assignment, or because exams are coming and you haven’t studied properly. If those stressful times or that horrendous unit is over, and you start to feel fulfilled and motivated to become a lawyer again, then the anxiety was probably just tricking you into thinking you’re not capable.

Be honest with good people.

Get real with your friends about how you feel. Chances are they will have also felt the same doubt you do. It’ll make you feel less alone. Seek advice from those who know you best. Some people just have a knack for seeing the best in us and where we thrive. They’ll help you figure out where you’re supposed to go.

Begin to explore your other hobbies.

Figure out what your passions are. Figure out what breaks your heart about this world and how you want to change it. If having a law degree is the thing that will help you achieve your passion, then just hold on to this bigger purpose while you stick it out.

Map it out.

Look at the course map and see how many years you have left. If it’s just a couple more semesters to go, then it may be worth sticking it out. Look ahead and ask yourself: what do I want to be doing in 5 years’ time? Adjust your trajectory as necessary.

Take a break.

Maybe all you need is a breather from the heavy law readings and assignments. Many people have deferred a semester or even a whole year of Law to chill out and assess their options. There is no shame in taking time off to look after yourself and pursue other interests. The break might motivate you to come back stronger than ever or it might be the confirmation you need that law isn’t your thing.

There’s nothing wrong with realising this degree isn’t it for you. I don’t have all the answers and I can’t tell you whether to stay or go. But when anxiety whispers you’ve stuffed up and it’s too late to change, remember that all things work out for good-no matter what decision you make. Your time here is not wasted, and the things you’re going through now will have a purpose.

For anyone on the brink of their existential crisis or for those who are currently in it, welcome to the club. Everyone feels lost sometimes, but take heart- this could just be the launch pad into the life you’re supposed to have.

Written by Ashley Chow (Co-founder)

So you’ve got into Monash Law: A Dos and Don’ts list for First Years

Firstly, congratulations!

If you are reading this, you have been accepted into Monash Law; one of the most prestigious and well renowned law courses in the country! Welcome to the beginning of one of the most incredible, wild and exciting periods of your life. So now that you’re in, you’re probably staring down the barrel of a 5-6 year degree wondering what the hell you are doing? Well, the good news is you are not alone!

At some stage in our lives we have all been first years and although it is probably the most daunting year of your university life, it is unarguably the most exciting and rewarding. A lot of choices and decisions you make in first year can in fact shape your future years. So take our advice, the more you put in now, the more you will get out of your degree later down the track. It’s worth it!

In order to help you navigate yourself through your first few weeks at Monash Law, we have developed a dos and don’ts list that we would have liked to read during our first years. In saying this, it is not an exhaustive list, and of course, prioritise what lecturers and tutors say when it comes to work related points! At the end of the day, they are the ones with more experience.

Dos

  1. Go to your FOL lectures
  2. Make an effort – go to first year activities
  3. Try to form a study group early
  4. Engage in university life beyond law, find something you are passionate about i.e a sports team or orchestra
  5. Reach out if you are struggling with mental health – we have a section on this website devoted to ways you can do this
  6. Do your notes lecture by lecture – try and form a systematic way of collecting notes and saving them
  7. Law school is hard, accept this and be OK with the fact that your marks may not always be perfect
  8. Contact lecturers and tutors if you need help, although you might not know them like your high school teachers, they will always respond to your emails
  9. Get involved in all that Monash Law has to offer, why not try the moot, client interview, negotiations? First year dinner? hell yeah!

Don’ts

  1. Isolate yourself
  2. Sit by yourself in lectures- everyone else is new too
  3. Do all the readings 😉 – this is an important one. Some of us may be superman and manage to read and digest every single relevant case to a topic before the lecture, but most us are not! At best, revise some pages of the textbook to get a broad understanding of an issue or point of law. Otherwise, the lecturers will almost always summarise relevant cases for you in lectures
  4. Stress out if your not happy with your marks, first year is about finding what works for you and this may not always be successful
  5. Don’t think you’ll be super motivated and set all your classes at 8am… chances are you will probably end up ditching all of them
  6. Don’t cram… law is a subject that requires practise and thorough understanding

Speaking from experience, we all wish we could go back to our first year, not only to reset our GPA’s but so that we could relive the find and exciting times it provides. So our advice is not to take yourself too seriously and enjoy the journey.

Our Recommended Activities 

First-year activities you should get involved in:

  • First Year Dinner – this is a night just for you! It’s a great way to get together with all of your Law buddies and make some new ones!

  • Peer Mentor Program – this is a great way to get free academic support whilst building up a social network (could even lead to the creation of a study group yay)

  • LSS events – the LSS (Law Student Society) organise a range of activities great for first-years. These activities range from free barbeques to running groups.

  • Law Ball – when the year is coming to an end Law Ball is a great opportunity to have fun with your friends. Get all dressed up and enjoy the night with friends and make new friends!

Written by Claudia Opie & Dian Liu (Co-founders)