We are into the Christmas countdown, now that December has come upon us. I am actually on top of the festive marlarky this year. I have my present shopping completed, and getting rightly through the Christmas cards too. I am looking forward to Christmas, as I do enjoy the joyful atmosphere and spending time with family – I am excited to see my sister when she comes home for the holiday from her teaching in Scotland. Yet for a law student like myself, Christmas time tends to mean that coursework is the upcoming festive treat.
This year, I have three coursework pieces to research, plan and write, all due in quick succession within the second week of January. So, no prizes for guessing what I shall be doing over the Christmas break. We are given relative freedom to select our own titles and areas of research/focus now that we are in final year, which I appreciate. It is far more interesting and enjoyable to research and write coursework on topics of personal interest, knowing that you have drafted the question yourself, rather than answer a generic ‘should there be reform of the law in this area, discuss’ question. I also think that you learn more as a student, and develop key employability skills when you are given such discretion as my peers and myself are being granted this semester.
I have already submitted a paper proposal for my Courts and Judicial Power module (my clear favourite this semester; the best mix of constitutional and public law combined with legal theory and politics). I am going to examine the influence of politics and public opinion on the courts: I plan on examining the role of political exploitation and expediency in judicial decision-making, and how such pressure and public demand for justice can result in miscarriages of justice. So I am selecting the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Maguire Seven to prove my argument, and I cannot wait to get started. My Understanding Human Rights module is now open for coursework question discussion; I think I am going to write about the right to protest and how it is provided for in theory, but when in relied upon in practice tends to result in the ‘criminalisation’ of protests. I am hoping to use the lens of Critical Legal Studies and Foucault, and include examples from Northern Ireland. I am now just waiting for the guidelines for my Legal Theory coursework to be released, and then that means it must be all systems go, and cue frantic planning and research for the next while.
For all the talk about Christmas and coursework, I cannot believe that I find myself in the middle of Week Ten of the semester. How did that happen? It feels like only yesterday I was completing the battle of wills that is online registration for final year. Whilst a part of me feels satisfied about this – I am a strong believer in ‘time passes quickly when you are enjoying yourself’ – a part of me feels a twinge of trepidation, because first semester is nearly over, and second semester, aka my final semester of my undergraduate degree, is upon me. I suppose it is just the fear of the future being invoked. Young people are always told to have plans, to know what they are doing, but that really is easier said than done, especially in the current economic climate and graduate market. I am resolved to make the most of my final year and enjoy my studies whilst I can. There is no point in allowing fear and worry to consume me, not when I can enjoy learning, my student organisations and volunteering.
On that note, what a marvellous and exciting year this is proving to be already. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute, whether it is from seminars to tutorials (being too keen to share my thoughts with my peers, no doubt) to new opportunities through the InnovateHer programme, Inspiring Leaders and Campaign SU. I have met new people, and made new friends along the way, too.
Allow me to share some highlights with you:
Being accepted onto the Committee and given the role of Secretary for the QUB Children in Crossfire society was an honour. I have enjoyed my time thus far, and cannot wait to see what the new year holds for this upcoming and growing society. As I have mentioned previously, I recently came up with our current fundraiser for Christmas, centring on giving up cherished treats such as coffee and chocolate raise funds and awareness for those enduring poverty and hardship in developing countries this Christmas. (Day Three, and I believe I may have caffeine withdrawals to report…)
As mentioned, my main coursework assignments are due for submission over January 2016, but I have still had assignments during this semester. Firstly, there was the unique method of assessment in my Understanding Human Rights module, where we had to select a topic from a given list to present to the class as a group. I requested the topic of ‘Rape as a War Crime’ and it transpired that my lovely group and myself had to use the feminist critique to examine the law and context of rape as a war crime, and present it as a debate. I suggested that we make the debate a ‘Newnight’ debate, which the group liked and went down well with our class. Subsequent to the presentation, we were required to write a blog post (I kid you not; it did not feel like an assessment I will say) summarising our arguments and stating our personal opinion. It was a really enjoyable exercise, allowing me to revisit the character I assumed for the debate and also include my personal opinion.
In addition, I have had to write about the amazing Feminist Judgments Project for my Legal Theory module; an examination of feminist critique and how it provides a fresh perspective through considering the original judgment of R v A (No 2) and comparing it to the rewritten feminist judgment.
And yes, I apparently make a nest of papers whenever I am typing up assignments.
One of the most memorable and thrilling experiences of this semester was signing up to participate in Campaign SU, and attending the launch night. It was amazing to hear Eamonn McCann speak so passionately and share his own experiences of activism. I found it most inspiring when he noted that issues such as welfare reform and tuition fees ‘are not just issues to complain about. They are issues to campaign about, and to campaign for change.’
As I wrote at the time, I was excited to sign up to join because I believe strongly that young people have the right to be heard, and express their opinions and campaign for positive change. I was so glad to join like-minded fellow students to campaign for and demand change. Student activism is not something to be feared, rather it is something to celebrate. Young people working together to bring about social change that benefits all members of society should be encouraged, not ridiculed. Hence why I am proud to support Fossil Free QUB in their battle for divestment at my university. You can read my write-up of their recent occupation here.
I was so excited to be informed my application for the Enterprise SU InnovateHer programme was successful. The InnovateHer programme is organised by the SU Enterprise department and is unique in that it is for female students only. It aims to assist 25 business and entrepreneurial minded female students who want to learn more about this line of work, providing practical assistance and support through interactive seminars and workshops.
Thus for the past six weeks, I have attended seminars and interactive workshops, learning about researching ideas and developing plans, marketing and branding – and it has been great fun, and very informative. I have really enjoyed the friendly environment and the camaraderie shared with the girls, and have felt myself grow further in confidence and self-belief. I am looking forward to the next six sessions, which will take place next semester.
As I posted about recently, I had a great day course with the Inspiring Leaders programme this semester. The day comprised of workshops and seminars, which required us to work within our table teams, but also work with others. We had to present to our peers, work in teams to provide information such as our experiences working as leaders or being lead by leaders, and what we have come to expect from leaders. These were very informative and interesting sessions, and I thought it was invaluable to hear the experiences of my peers.
I have also been involved with an Open Learning course through my university this semester, learning about parades, commemorations and symbolism in Northern Ireland. This has been a fascinating course, and has essentially been the socio-historical equivalent to my Legal Theory module in that it has challenged me to re-assess my perspectives and examine facts through new views.
I am currently studying a course through FutureLearn relating to Intercultural Communication and Cultural Awareness, which I am thoroughly enjoying.
I remember writing at the beginning of the semester how I felt that final year would be my most interesting, exciting and packed year to date. Reflecting upon the first semester thus far, I think I may have been right in my prediction. (Just call me Mystic Meg from now on.) It goes to show that if you seize upon available opportunities and make the most of your time, you can have a wonderful, stimulating time.
The future may be uncertain in terms of plans after graduation and career plans. But I am determined to focus on the here and now, and enjoy the remainder of my final year. I have such amazing memories to date – it is my intent to add to the growing collection.