Studying LL.B (Hons.) in my home country taught me how to survive post-graduation blues abroad: Advise to all Pakistani Law students from an LL.B (Hons.) Graduate Arslan Munawar
Arslan Munawar studied in Pakistan College of Law and graduated with an LL.B (Hons.) from the University of London International Programmes in 2012. After graduating he went onto work as an Advocate for a year before obtaining admission on the Commercial Law LL.M Programme of Cardiff University, where he is currently studying. This is what he had to say about his experience as a University of London under-graduate student in his home country and what he had to do to prepare for begining his post-graduate experience:
“It’s a big world, and studying abroad is one of the best opportunities to take advantage of after finishing your under-graduate studies. You have the chance to explore new cultures, meet amazing people and travel more in several months than you probably will throughout the rest of your life. However, before jetting off to a foreign place there are about a thousand tiny details that need to be ironed out. After getting admission in a good University, obtaining a passport and visa, haggling with finances and booking flights, it is almost surreal that all this preparatory work leads to an actual destination. Relieved to have conquered the tedious steps, it’s easy to breeze through all the other preparatory steps and center your focus on your destination i.e. obtaining a post-graduate qualification.
I am currently studying LL.M in Commerical Law in Cardiff University, United Kingdom and I can testify to the difficulties in preparing for studies abroad. There are many social as well as academic factors which need to be kept in mind. Although it is an exciting and rewarding experience, but I definitely had to research a lot in order to acquire background knowledge for the degree I was seeking admission for along with the location I would be having to live in for at least a year as a full-time student.
I was extremely lucky and truly blessed that as an under-graduate student I had studied in an institution, Pakistan College of Law, where I was guided constantly by my teachers on each and every step, whether that was socially or academically. Throughout the time I was doing LLB (Hons.) I had been told again and again to work hard and constantly challenged to improve my communications skills through particularly the QLD requirements. Because of this I was able to obtain the grades that allowed me to pursue my LL.M ambitions. In the initial stages of my undergraduate degree, due to perhaps lack of maturity, it had not occurred to me that I was studying a University degree in the real sense, which led me to taking my studies lightly. But eventually, through the support of my College in particular, I came to realise how important studies are and if I wanted to succeed in life I would have to consistently work hard. The challenges presented by the LL.B (Hons.) programme also encouraged me towards this realisation, which is helping me now to adjust to the demands of an LL.M programme away from the comforts of my home country.
Even though I already have a UK undergraduate degree however I am of the opinion that there are certain social struggles which you can only experience and overcome once you are in the UK. In this regards I would like to illustrate what I experienced as a post-graduate student in the UK so that other Pakistani students get some perspective.
Firstly even once you are settled in your new location you would still have to get used to the time difference. In my case I would wake up so early because my mind was in tune with Pakistan time, it almost took me a week and a half to get used to it. Secondly in case you do not have friends or family around the loneliness at times really starts bothering you but eventually one gets used to it as thanks to smartphones and wifi this problem gets solved. Thirdly the moment one lands at the new destination one would have to arrange for a place to live. There are many options but one has to carefully choose which one would be appropriate e.g. who will be your housemates, the distance from the University to the place you live, what utilities the landlord is providing and for how long you can stay at this new “home” because they all have different time periods. Fourthly, and this one is particularly an eye opener for boys, one has to get used to the fact of doing house chores like washing clothes, cooking and cleaning.
“……Fourthly, and this one is particularly an eye opener for boys, one has to get used to the fact of doing house chores like washing clothes, cooking and cleaning.”
An experience that has being particularly difficult for me is to get used to walking everywhere, the reason being that majority of people in the UK prefer walking to get somewhere rather than using a conveyance…..so be mentally prepared and obtain as much information about where you are staying, so you aren’t ignorant of the predominant local culture. Also, studying abroad is all about immersing yourself in a different culture, and learning about it, so you can have a head start if you do some research beforehand on the current political, economical and popular trends. Don’t forget to also keep an eye on the currency exchange in the weeks before you go (and definitely while you’re there!) so you will know how expensive or inexpensive it will be in order for you to plan your expenses. Of course, you have no way of knowing exactly how much you’ll spend while you’re there, but knowing the exchange rate will definitely help.
Importantly to manage expenses students will need to look for work particularly when an alternate source is not sufficient. Before I say anything further, students should know that it’s a completely different experience working abroad as compared to working in Pakistan and no matter what job you do you would not be looked down upon. However, in my opinion it is better if a law student tries to look for work at a law firm or pro-bono legal service providers. It does not have to be as a Junior Associate or Internee because not only will that be too difficult to obtain at this stage, it will also require too much time taken out of your studies. Such quality based work is still preferable as this would reflect in your C.V, but it might not be possible to find it easily. So you may have to for a while work in a restaurant, café or a grocery store. But do not give up, do keep trying. You can also obtain help from the University as they also provide assistance to students seeking employment.
Finally, as far as making friends goes I would advise students to find and meet people from different places as I experienced while living in Cardiff that it is better to make friends from different backgrounds and cultures, which has given to me a wider view of the world. I find it interesting to see how other people’s reactions and views are different to the way I have been taught and brought up in my country. Through this approach I got to learn a lot of things that helped me to become more astute in understanding different people and thus handling my own challenges. My advise is move outside your comfort zone and interact with as many people as possible. I was taught this as an under-graduate student and I am definitely living it now. Try not to isolate yourself by solely befriending students from your home country because you will return into your comfort zone and will not learn to adapt and end up missing out on a lot.
” No matter what, you will be a different person after your studies abroad. Allow yourself to experience new things, to grow personally, and to learn.”
Oh and don’t forget you need to do all of the above as well as your studies, attending lectures, submitting assignments by the dead line, researching in the Library. It all seems so daunting but have faith in yourself as your foundations have already been laid out, which will help only if you continue the learning process that began during your under-graduate studies. If you just accept the social challenges in your new community, country, culture, etc, and adapt to them then you can plan and prepare for any change that you may come across. Just stay calm, work consistently and enjoy the experience. No matter what, you will be a different person after your studies abroad. Allow yourself to experience new things, to grow personally, and to learn….Good Luck to all LL.B (Hons.) students going abroad to study for their post-graduation……”