MLS student embracing a world of opportunities

Maria Downie’s passion for international law has seen her take her studies from Melbourne Law School across the globe.

JD student Maria Downie

For many students new to Melbourne Law School, the variety of subjects and career options on offer can be dazzling at first. However, for third year student Maria Downie, there was always a clear path in her mind: international law and social justice, with a particular interest in international humanitarian law.

“I really came to law school to get involved in the social justice, public interest side of things,” she says.

Focusing on this specialist area has already lead to success. Last year, Maria’s team triumphed in the prestigious MLS International Humanitarian Law Moot. But it wasn’t all about winning for her team, with the competition representing an opportunity to strengthen certain legal muscles while having fun.

“We went in there with low expectations and just ended up really enjoying learning about international law,” she says.

The opportunity to combine her studies with her passion for travel and seeing the world has been a highlight of Maria’s time at MLS. She participated in the Institutions of International Law subject, which sees students fly to Geneva and study how and where international law is made over two intensive weeks.

“It was really amazing to see the UN because it was just so grand, seeing the buildings and knowing the history and the peacemaking agreements that have taken place in those buildings,” she says.

The international focus of Maria’s time at MLS follows from an undergraduate degree spent much the same way — studying media communications, politics and international studies, with time spent on exchange at the University of Amsterdam.

Maria sees this breadth of experience as a key strength.

“I think that it doesn’t really matter what background you have when you study law in the JD because it just brings a different perspective to your legal studies,” she says.

Now in her final year of law school, Maria is finishing off her degree by gaining valuable real-world experience in social justice. She is undertaking internships with Victoria Legal Aid and the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner — with both experiences facilitated by MLS, and each counting as a subject credit.

She encourages other prospective students “to not be afraid of following your own pathway” and to pursue personal passions down the many roads in law.

“Make sure you listen to yourself and not be afraid to pursue your interests.”

By Scott Colvin

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