Interview: NLUJ’s Namrata Amarnath on Wim Deetman Studiefonds Scholarship: She’s going to the Hague to study international justice, peace and security

Interivew by Rashika Raina

How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

I have graduated from NLU Jodhpur in 2014 with BA (Hons.) LL.B (International Law Hons.). I grew up and studied in Chennai and I spent my school years being actively associated with the media.

When I was in school, I freelanced for the Hindu, the Deccan Chronicle, and the Business Line.

I participated in several debate and writing competitions in school such as the Scholastic Writing Competition and Outlook Speak Out Debating Competition.

I also received a Silver Medallion for fiction writing on a social theme revolving around environmental concerns from the former President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

After having completed BA (Hons.) LL.B (International Law Hons.), I am set to do my Masters in Public International Law from Leiden University as a Fellow of the Netherlands Fellowship Programme, which is a full scholarship by the Wim Deetman Studiefonds (WDS) Foundation.

What motivated you to choose Law as a career? How has your experience at NLU Jodhpur been?

My interest in pursuing a career in law stemmed from my involvement in social issues through the media during my school years.

I was interested in research, writing and debating on issues of concern to the community at large, and law seemed like an ideal career choice to develop and use those skills.

My experience at NLU Jodhpur was phenomenal.

I didn’t like having a lot of free time  so I participated in parliamentary debates and moot court competitions, as well as working on the Editorial Board of two law journals, and undertaking various other research projects.

Your CV reads like every law students’ dream. Did it ever feel like it was too much on your plate? How did you manage to maintain a sane work-life balance?

Thanks for that! There were times when I felt that I did take on too much work. For instance, during my eighth semester, I couldn’t give my end semester exams because I had gone to The Hague for the ICC Trial Moot Court Competition.

So, I had to write all my exams back to back in the next semester.

I think time-management is very important, and it’s something that we learn over the years. Sometimes, I had to sacrifice extra hours of sleep.

I had a good support system in college which helped a lot.

My professors, especially in the International Law Honours programme were helpful and understanding and friends helped me out with notes, which helped me maintain a fairly decent CPGA.

You’ve been an intern at top law firms and you’ve done it all. What’s your take on the idea of “secure-a-job-in-a-top-notch-law-firm.” Elaborate on the avenues open for students after finishing law school.

The most important thing is enjoying what work you do, because you will be spending almost all your time at work, and one can be most productive at work only if they enjoy it.

We have ample time to do various internships to figure out what actually interests us.

Apart from working in a law firm, there are so many options available to law students after finishing law school. One can work in a company as an in-house counsel, or can venture into litigation.

In the last few years, a lot of policy-based organizations and think-tanks with promising job opportunities have come up.

The civil services exam is also ideal for law students. A law-degree can be further backed with a Masters-degree or an MBA, depending on one’s interest. Law school helps people develop a lot of skills which can be put to use in so many areas.

How and when did you realize that Public International Law is your calling? When did the interest pique?

I became interested in Public International Law when I participated in an ICJ Simulation organized by Cambridge University in 2010, where the subject of debate was Kosovo’s status in international law.

I also participated in moot court competitions such as the Henry Dunant International Humanitarian Law Competition, Manfred Lachs International Space Law Competition, and the ICC Trial Moot Court Competition

These competitions involved a lot of research on Public International Law. The more I researched and worked in that area, the more I liked it.

I was fortunate to have the option of choosing the International Law Honours programme in my University which enabled me to learn and the study the subjects of my choice.

You chose the non-corporate way of life despite having interned and worked at top firms. What motivated this decision?

I think it was my internships and work-experience at corporate firms that motivated this decision.

In November 2013, I interned with the International Committee of the Red Cross Regional Delegation for India, Maldives and Bhutan at New Delhi, and the internship gave me wonderful insight how different the work culture is when compared to a law firm.

There were more avenues for creativity and independent thinking, which I felt was lacking in law firms. I worked with Jupiter Law Partners, a start-up firm, for eight months after I graduated from college.

While I was comfortable doing corporate work because of my previous internships, the work-culture at the firm was not the least bit conducive for my professional growth.

I think each law firm has its own work culture. It may not seem important initially, but considering the number of hours you will have to spend at work, it is imp

ortant that the work ambience helps you bring out your best in the professional front. I am inclined towards academics and I prefer researching and developing concepts and ideas, so I guess a corporate-job did not appeal to me.

How important are Internships, Moots etc. for framing an impressive CV? What holds actual importance? 

It really depends on your career choice. For example,for someone who is interested in giving the civil services exam, internships and moots may not matter much.

For someone who is looking to work in a law firm, internships with law firms would take priority over moot courts, as it provides practical training.

In a nutshell, one should frame their CV keeping their career interest in mind. Moot courts and publications and internships are all of great value to your CV if you can connect them with your area of interest.

There should be a nexus between what you put in your CV and your area of interest. And clichéd as it sounds, your college grades are quite important.

Tell us about the selection process for the scholarship.

The Netherlands Fellowship Programme by the WDS Foundation is a scholarship for talented students from 62 countries worldwide who are interested in following a Masters-programme in the field of international justice, peace and security in The Hague.

Every year for ten years, 5 students are chosen as Fellows, and they will act as ambassadors of international justice, peace and security and will participate in public events such as conferences and meetings related to their field of study and the Wim Deetman StudiefondsPicture Foundation during the course of their study in the Netherlands.

The programme, which was initiated and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, started in March 2010 and completely covers the cost of tuition fee, travel and living costs.

Students cannot apply for the WDS Scholarship themselves, but are nominated by the participating institutions in the Netherlands. The Fellows are selected on the basis of their academic results, strong motivation, and social involvement.

How did you go about writing your SOP? Are there any key factors which one should keep in mind before writing the SOP? How about recommendation letter?

I wrote an honest letter of motivation, highlighting my interest in Public International Law, and my desire to study and specialize in the subject.

I would say that the key factor one should keep in mind while writing their SOP is to relate their achievements to their goals and outline their future vision explicitly.

References form a very important part of your application.

It is best to obtain references from university professors who know you well and understand your capabilities and potential, and who are also associated with your interested field of study.

That way I have been very fortunate to obtain good references from my professors at NLU Jodhpur.

I also got a reference from Mr. Charles Sabga, Regional Head of the ICRC, who I worked with during my internship at ICRC, as my SOP highlighted my interest in international humanitarian law.

Academic references from University professors are given more importance than professional references, unless the professional reference is directly related to your field of specialization.

What are your future plans? Where do you see yourself after a few years?

I would like to be associated with various facets of international law, with a special focus on the law of armed conflict and international criminal law.

I don’t know what plans are in store for me a few years from now. My long term goal is to be associated with the academia.

I hope to facilitate better understanding of laws applicable during conflict for protection of civilians, and mechanisms of dispensing retributive justice, through research and dissemination of knowledge using the best practices and scientific techniques.

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