Farewell to the summer, and hello to the new academic year.

Hello all,

Well, what can I say? Summer is behind us now, and the new academic year is just on the horizon for returning university students such as myself. I find it rather surreal to consider that this is my final year at university, and at how rapidly summer appeared to pass me by. It seems as though it was only yesterday that I arrived home from Iowa, rather jet-lagged but urgent, as I pleaded with my parents to just drive home from Dublin so that I could vote and then settle down to await the General Election results. But here we are. A couple of weeks into September, and a new year to dive on into. Time flies when you are enjoying yourself, so the saying goes, and I can readily confirm this to be the case when I reflect on my study abroad year and the summer months which followed.

I must say that I am feeling rather excited to go back to university, and back to studying Law. It was a long year away from Queen’s, but I will be back walking around the courtyard, sitting in the lecture halls and studying in the lovely McClay library next week. It has been a year of Business and Finance classes for me, bar two legal modules, and I am eagerly awaiting pouring over new textbooks and case-law. At least, that is how I feel currently. We shall see if I feel so enthusiastic and inspired after a few weeks!

Speaking of new textbooks and new classes: I can say with great excitement that I successfully enrolled into all the modules I had wished to study this year. It was quite the arduous wait until that moment of realisation yesterday, however.

I had had such a struggle to initially receive the module information booklet which soon-to-be final year law students receive by email in the summer prior to the commencement of their final year. As I had been studying abroad for the year 2014/2015, I was no longer registered as a student at the School of Law at my university; I was categorised as am Erasmus student instead, meaning I was not on the School of Law’s mailing list. I was not informed of this until my return in the summer, and only after I emailed around with enquiries. My nerves were further shredded when I was informed by friends in the year below me (who will now be my year group, seeing as my own year group graduated in the summer) that they had received the email and information booklet and choice form. Fortunately, a very kind Director of Education at the School of Law managed to set matters to rights, and I received all the required documentation that very same day. I eagerly began reading about the modules on offer, how they were assessed and what they entailed. This also marked the commencement of my friends having to endure my wails of frustration at having to narrow down my choices. Eventually however I completed my form and submitted it on the designated day in June, content that what would be would be and I would find out sooner or later what I was to study.

I heard nothing, until late in the afternoon on the last day in August. An email was sent out (at least I received this one, I remember thinking wryly) to inform all soon-to-be final year Law students that as there had been three new staff appointments within the School, new modules were to be offered and old ones replaced. You guessed it – we had to resubmit our choices. Well, there was nothing to do but read the new booklet, and consider whether this was secretly a blessing in disguise. (When we submit our preferred options, this is not a guarantee that we will be successfully placed into those modules. Nor does it mean the module will be taught; under-subscribed modules are cancelled and those students are filtered into other options.)

It fell to the first weekend in September for me to make my mind up once more. I was torn between trying to select a variety of modules to keep my career pathway open, or going with my heart and opting for those modules I have an inherent interest in. After consulting many graduate friends, I realised that it would be better for me to select modules I genuinely wanted to study, that interlinked with one another, rather than try to be someone I am not in my interests. (Let that be a lesson to all Law students out there: choose your modules for you, not for anyone else. You are the one who will study them, and be examined in them.)

I opted for Understanding Human Rights and Courts and Judicial Power for first semester, with the compulsory Legal Theory module. For the second semester, I went with Contemporary Issues in British and Irish Human Rights, and Reshaping the NI Constitution: The Transition from Conflict to Consensus (which seems rather ironic now, does it not). I also went for Evidence, as this is a compulsory module in NI to secure a QLD (Qualifying Law Degree). I had initially toyed with the idea of forgoing Evidence, ergo a QLD for Northern Ireland, but then decided against it. I would rather keep my options open in terms of career and practice area. If I should end up moving to work abroad, I can easily adjust my QLD by studying the required components, which will happen regardless of where I move.

Well, to yesterday. It marked the commencement of online registration via QSIS, and as any Queen’s student can inform you, it is always rather the adventure. Even though this was my third round at it, and after a year away from the process, it never fails to surprise.

Firstly, you should consider yourself fortunate if you are able to successfully log in to QSIS – due to the sheer volume of students attempting to register and enrol, the servers have an alarming tendency to crash, with the result being students may fail to even log in. Should you be one of the lucky few to log in, you may fall at the second hurdle, that being actually clicking on the registration button – many who reach this step fail, as the server crashes and they are unceremoniously logged out. Once you commence the registration process, you may find that your screen freezes, you are logged out and so have to fight the good fight to log back in, or you constantly have to resubmit information. I generally end up resorting to threatening my laptop and/or the QSIS programme. It really is the Hunger Games of university registration, I kid you not.

Anyway, I eventually managed to confirm that my name, DOB, address etc have not magically changed after a year, and that all the other information on file was still accurate. I flexed my fingers, for the next step is that of ‘Academics’, otherwise known as ‘Supermarket Sweep: module edition’. (As a toddler I adored that zany programme, for reasons I have yet to fully comprehend. Should you not know of this veritable gem, please do Google it.)

I essentially lost track of time as a concept yesterday, as I tracked down the modules I wish to study, tried to devise a halfway decent working week schedule and basically hope that what I was doing was the right method. Bearing in mind that the previous two years of this entailed me merely selecting tutorial classes, as I had no say in module choice. (First and second years at Queen’s study the ‘core’ legal modules, which are required for a QLD.) After cajoling and threatening with QSIS in equal measure, I eventually came away with the completed works – and all the modules I had desired to study in the first place. I was overjoyed. Of course, there had to be another moment of black humour in that I noticed I was only going to be charged £648 for the year, which evidently was incorrect. Cue me having to ring Reg Help, wait in a queue and chat to two lovely and helpful staff members who genuinely had no idea why I suddenly was £3,200-odd out of student debt. God obviously took pity on me, as the system sorted itself out in the end.

After a process lasting easily three hours, I was registered and enrolled, with a working timetable in hand.

First week, here we come.
First week, here we come.

I cannot help but smile in anticipation whenever I log into QOL (Queen’s Online, essentially Aladdin’s Cave for Queen’s students) and see my new modules for each semester staring back at me.

modules 15-16

They were worth the wait and stress, most definitely. I am simply so happy that my love of Constitutional Law, current affairs, politic and Human Rights law have perfectly come together in time for my final year. I cannot wait until the respective syllabuses (syllabi? My Latin teacher from secondary school is most likely hanging his head in shame at me) become available, and the reading lists. Final year will feel very real indeed when I hold my new textbooks and files in my hands, with graduation suddenly feeling very tangible too, no doubt.

Finally: proving that I was always destined to be a student – when I am in my Sixties, I will probably be still attending conferences and courses – I have just enrolled into two QUB Open Learning courses, which I am very excited about. I cannot wait to get started.

Open Learning fun

‘Commemorations, Parades and Symbolism in Northern Ireland’ runs on a Thursday afternoon for two hours, and commences next week, running until December. It will focus on the role of symbols, parades and commemorations in NI/Ireland, naturally of topical relevance when considering that 2016 marks a ‘decade of centenaries’. This course promises to discuss the key themes and debates surrounding such issues, thereby providing greater understanding of the role of symbols, parades and commemorations throughout Northern Ireland’s history, with a key focus upon the present day. I thought this would be a suitable course for myself, as I am studying Contemporary Issues in British and Irish Human Rights in the Spring semester, which will focus particularity on freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly.

The second course, ‘The Trials of the Troubles’ will examine the most significant cases arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland. They include the ‘Arms Trial’; interrogation policy in Ireland v. UK; the ‘Supergrass’ trials; Death on Gibraltar (McCann v.UK); Miscarriages of Justice (Judith Ward, Gilford 4, Birmingham 6); the issue of collusion still before the Courts; extradition; the Omagh bomb litigation and so on. The course will explain the legal issues in the individual cases and seek to place them in historical and political context. It will commence in late January 2016 and run until May, so I hope it will complement the two NI-centric modules in my Spring semester.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 16th) marks the commencement of the International Buddy Scheme which I am going to be participating in, and this Thursday (17th) will be the first meeting of the QUB Children in Crossfire Society, which I am excited about. Also a tad nervous too, as I have been awarded a committee role and will be Executive Secretary, so fingers crossed that my scribing skills keep me going. I cannot wait to meet the international students at QUB tomorrow at the first event. As I detailed in another blog post, I think it is a privilege to work alongside other students to represent Queen’s, as I have had a wonderful time here. I cannot wait to get to know the new international students, to hear about their respective countries, to learn from them and to introduce them to student life on campus at QUB.

Basically, this year promises to be illuminating and interesting, and I cannot wait to get started. It may be my final year of my Law degree at dear old QUB, but that merely means it has the potential to be the best year yet.

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