Sarah hails from the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and after completing her A Levels, she followed in her father's footsteps to study law. After spending her first year at affiliated teaching centre Advance Tertiary College Kuala Lumpur, she is now on her first overseas trip to study.
What influenced you to study the LLB, did you have an inspirational mentor? My first choice was to be a fashion designer, I love drawing and I love clothes as well. But I did a careers test which showed I would be good at law or something arts related.
The real reason I chose law was because of my A level law lecturer, who passed down her passion for law to the rest of the class. Prior to that I was not convinced I would like law as a career. My lecturer passed down why we needed law, and from that I started to pick up interest.
Why did you choose to study with the University of London programme? I was having a bit of trouble deciding so I consulted my parents. My father is a retired lawyer, he suggested I look at University of London where he got his law degree about 30 years ago. So he recommended it.
Your family must have been delighted about you winning the scholarship. How has it benefited your study experience? Actually a funny story when Mr Simon Askey contacted me and the moment I put down the phone I was so excited I screamed a bit. My family was having dinner downstairs. And then I told them everything. They thought I saw something scary like a mouse! They are happy for me.
At the risk of cliché, I suppose you can say it is really changed my life and perspective. I had never been out of Malaysia until two months ago and I got my first passport two months ago.
There are differences between Malaysia and London, especially in the people and their way of life. London is very cosmopolitan and diverse, and the differences which arise in interacting with people have helped me from both personal and educational standpoints.
Apart from different perspectives, what are the benefits of studying here compared to Malaysia? I would say it is independence. I mean the network here is really good, the support network is amazing, but at the same time you can't rely on everybody all the time. You need to know how to look after yourself and you can't always depend on everybody and everything all the time. There is always that sense of curiosity, how do I do things if I don't know something where do I find the answers.
Have you used any support networks? So far I haven’t used the official support network. I do talk to people every now and then and my flatmates or students I see. Most of them are studying law. In my flat there are eleven people with five of us are studying law. Most are in first year, and two or three are exchange students. I am the only person in second year.
Some of them are from Sweden. All have colourful histories, they come from everywhere and have lived everywhere. I travel vicariously through them so to speak. To live with other people you must have patience and be accepting. That is a really important skill to have.
What is the best part about studying at Queen Mary, University of London and what have you most enjoyed about living in London? It is a beautiful campus with good facilities, more than I use. Everything is very centralised, well connected and not difficult to access via transport.
Off the top of my head I enjoy the freedom, I suppose. Because as cliché as it sounds it is one of the things I enjoy the most. Freedom from back home. You get to find out who you are, whether you make mistakes or not and how you are going to deal with them by yourself. And exploring. I really like this learning experience very much.
How is studying abroad here different from studying at home? You said something about you can be more expressive and you get to debate more. On the surface it is definitely a lot more self-study and self-research. Back home in Malaysia there is a lot of contact with tutors and advisors. Here it is more self-directed.
The contact time is very comprehensive, which is unlike the situation back home. There's more self-directed study which requires you to be very disciplined in going through the material, although most lecturers and tutors have been very dedicated in guiding us and encouraging questions. Another thing is the need to be more vocal in tutorials, so for people like myself who are more shy, that can pose a big challenge.
I know you have only been here two months, how would you rate the levels of support, including access to materials and resources from the University? Starting with QMUL support has actually been very good. I am in a first year module as well as a second year module. If I don't understand or how to do something the first year module tutor will guide us through. It is very comprehensive and guided instruction, so I don't have a problem finding anything.
In terms of the University of London’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), it was a bit tricky at first because I hadn’t used an online portal before. Prior to my first year it was just text books. For access to cases and legislation I found the VLE was very helpful for that.
You mentioned that you would like to specialise in commercial law. What appeals to you about this particular field? I am still a complete novice actually. I spoke to people and they recommend it based on my personality.
Basically from my understanding and it is very cursory understanding, it is about companies and how they run, what laws affect them, mergers and acquisitions. What problems can arise because they differ to other statutes, say from criminal law or, yes from criminal law for example. Also it is probably a bit too early to say this, but I suppose I might not want to stay in practice for the whole of my career, so commercial law would be an option. The skills are transferable which is very nice.
Do you have any advice to give students who might want to study via distance learning? You do have technical paths and those are challenging, but the most difficult part is the volume of work. The amount of preparation is quite intense really. I think the best thing is to cultivate a sense of discipline and never forget why you are doing it. You will get lost eventually halfway through the programme and think ‘why am I putting myself through this?’ So hold on to the reason why you began and never be afraid and ask for help.
What else are you doing whilst studying, have you joined any societies or are you doing any voluntary work? I’ve joined the Malaysia society, so it gives me a base from home so we can interact there. Also the Law Society in QMUL and I am participating on a career partnership with Fieldfisher, a law firm. They give us seminars and training, interview feedback how and how the interview went as well. We will be partnered with mentors. The one thing about law is that you might get lost in it and when you meet people in the industry they give you direction. It is a people-based business.
Would you recommend studying the LLB through the University of London to other people? The degree is meant to help a person as a first step into their career, so it depends on what the person wants. If they asked me if the LLB from University of London would suit them I would definitely recommend it to them. It is renowned and recognised as well, it is diverse and there are a very broad range of options.
I know it is a bit early to ask, what are your plans going forward? If I manage to maintain my scholarship I will be here for this year and the next academic year in 2020. I might do the Legal Practice Course or go back to Malaysia, I have not really decided.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your experience? It has been a wonderful experience so far. I am still getting used to things, especially the weather is the most drastic change for me. I am enjoying it.
I love the challenge although it is not always easy. I want to believe it is something I can achieve and something I can advise people about in the future to inspire people and say even if you are in a tough position it is not going to last forever. I am very grateful to be here and I am so thankful to everybody who has helped me, my lecturers, family and University of London and everybody.