My Kent LLM story: The story of a girl from a land far away!

By Zeba Farah Haque, International Environmental Law and Human Rights LLM

Zeba near the River Stour in Canterburys Westgate Gardens

A lot of people think the biggest challenge is to receive an offer from a high-ranked university. They are not entirely wrong; it is definitely hard, but the harder part is to do well in such institutions among so many talented individuals from different corners of the world.

When I first came from Bangladesh to the UK in January 2021, to pursue my LLM in International Environmental Law and Human Rights (dual specialisation), I had so many questions and doubts in my mind.

Five thousand miles away from my family I woke up alone every morning in my dorm room, called my loved ones and talked to them for a while before starting my day. I was very scared and nervous at the beginning of the term because I was a new face and the education system was very new to me.

I didn’t think I would be able to cope with the studies, and would fail horribly in making friends. However, as time passed by, I figured out that I was very, very wrong. Not only did I make amazing friends, but also completed my first term with flying colors!

Prepare well!

As I was here with a fully-funded scholarship (based on academic merit), I was determined to do well in all my modules. I used to prepare myself well for the classes as well as the seminars. The key is to furnish yourself with enough knowledge to help facilitate discussion during the seminars.

The modules were very new to me, but the teachers were extremely helpful, patient, and friendly. I used to email them all the time with my confusions and queries. They were always very kind to me. The reading materials were all provided online, which further helped me as a guiding tool. As these are provided by the module conveners, the lectures are related to these materials. Going through them beforehand helped me understand the lectures easily. Moreover, there was always room for asking questions. I would strongly encourage the new batch of incoming students never to shy away from asking questions. This is a habit that can never act in your detriment.

Being a research enthusiast, I always found the essay topics very interesting. Each topic challenged me with a new question, new problem, new issue, and I was always up for some digging! For this, the Templeman Library was my go-to place. I spent hours with my laptop and books there. Meanwhile, I was also making friends from different countries, with very different cultures, languages, and backgrounds. Intellectual discussions with them gave me food for thought and stimulated my ideas.

Top Tips

  • Be open to new ideas and concepts: Think outside the box, and read between the lines. At Kent, you will be surrounded by the brightest minds of your time, you yourself being one of them. Present new ideas to the table and seize the opportunities to learn as much as you can. To truly learn, one must unlearn and put away the rigid mindset of sticking to preconceived notions. Expand your horizons, and you will see how much we do not know!
  • Allocate separate time slots for each module: Read, and re-read until you understand, and try to analyze using your own perspective. Soon you will find how fun it is to play with words, and put forward new ideas and recommendations
  • Listen to what the teachers say: You can formulate a lot of your arguments just by being attentive in the classes
  • Start reading in small chunks: Take notes instead of piling up all your work for the very last minute. It is not only bad for your health, but also lowers the quality of your paper considerably. On the other hand, working on a single piece continuously for a very long period of time also stops your brain from thinking creatively and differently. As a result, the writer’s thoughts keep moving in loops.
  • Take a break: After working for a few days on an essay, keep it aside for a while. Take a break, or work on a different paper. Read a story book, go to dinner with friends, watch a movie, and listen to your favorite music. Then start working on it again. You will find new mistakes that you had not noticed earlier, and will be able to think critically from a different angle. This strategy works for me, and I am sure, will be fruitful for you too.

Reap what you sow

After six months of being at the Law School, I got an opportunity to present a paper at a conference. It was one of the papers I wrote for a module. My presentation was widely praised, and that was the day I realised you reap what you sow. Months of hard work, research and sleepless nights were all worth the effort in that very moment, and I knew that I was on the right track.

The critical approach

Postgraduate study in Law in itself requires a huge commitment and dedication, especially when it is at Kent, the ‘Critical Law School’. This ‘critical approach’ structure here is very flexible (in terms of creating your own pathway), distinctive, and encourages us to ask “why”, intertwining the questions with political, economic and social aspects, which pushes the students to their utmost limit of legal imagination. It hones the strength of creativity, novelty and legal analysis. This may seem exhausting, and perhaps daunting at times, and you may be at the very tip of your breaking point, but do not give up; because speaking from personal experience, the end result is beautiful, trust me! Besides, it is not as difficult as it sounds, really! Never miss a class, do not leave your research for the last moment, and always seek help when you need it. The university is keen to provide you with every kind of support; you just have to ask for it! If you remember these tips, success is guaranteed!

Postgraduate life – never boring!

With all this workload and papers to complete in due time, one may think that the life of a postgraduate is very boring. It is actually the exact opposite! I’ve only been living in the UK for eight months but I have already been to London so many times! I have also visited Manchester, Oxford, Liverpool, Dorset, Bath and most of the beaches in Kent.

I must also take the opportunity to mention here that the university campus is breathtakingly beautiful with an astounding view of the city from the hills. As an international student living in the UK, I always carry my friends and family in my heart wherever I go. When I was standing in front of the London Eye, I called all those friends who always wanted to visit that place but never had the opportunity to come to England. Even though I was standing alone, I was not feeling the same because they were all living the moment and watching through me, the great London Eye! These are the days that keep me going when I am too sick to work, too lazy to read, or too tired to write. Their love kindled prayers are my source of inspiration to study, and live life at the same time!

Bloom in Kent!

To recapitulate, my days at Kent are flying by. It took me a while to get here, but this place does seem like home now! A home that is helping me prepare my repertoire and enabling me to explore opportunities in a positive and sustainable environment designed for my empowerment. Each module is equipping me with the necessary theory, skills, and resources to think through and flesh out a solution that targets and tackles the largest roadblocks to ensuring environmental sustainability and human rights in the world. So, if you are in love with law like I am – and looking for a place in which to bloom – then Kent, the garden of England, is your place!

Zeba studied her LLM at Kent from 2021-22 – this item has been reposted following its original publication in 2021, to share the experience of studying an LLM at Kent.

The Kent LLM (and associated Diploma programme) allows you to broaden and deepen your knowledge and understanding of law by specialising in one or more different areas.

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