For two weeks during this year's winter break, a group of 25 students from Melbourne Law School studied a unique subject: Institutions in International Law. Taught in the institutional hub of Geneva, the subject was an incredible opportunity for students interested in public international law to see how key institutions work and interact in practice. Students Tessa D'Abbs, Blake Ericksen, Catherine Farrell, Christopher Hibbard and Timothy Lau report on their experience.
This was more than just another university subject. Rather, it was two weeks in the very home of international law. We were completely immersed in the study of this dynamic field. During formal classes leading practitioners and diplomats challenged and inspired us. Away from class, we were surrounded by like-minded students keen to debate and exchange ideas.
During the course we were able to engage with senior representatives from various intergovernmental institutions who discussed the work of these organisations and their particular roles within them. The subject gave us a fascinating insight into the complexities of international law and we obtained invaluable advice for embarking on a career in this area.
We were fortunate enough to visit a wide variety of international institutions. The first week had more of a focus on international economic law and general international law. We visited the World Trade Organization, where we heard presentations from a variety of experts. At the UN buildings we were able to watch the International Law Commission deliberating. We also visited the World Health Organization and the Australian Mission, a particular favourite amongst students – partly due to the frank and open way the presenters discussed life as a diplomat, but also because it was the first building with air-conditioning!
Also in the first week, the Institutions in International Law cohort was most fortunate to have the opportunity to engage in a personal roundtable conversation with Dr Francis Gurry, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Melbourne Law School alumnus (LLB (Hons) 1973, LLM 1975). Dr Gurry is currently the highest ranking Australian in any public international institution and we appreciated being able to learn from, and be inspired by, someone with his experience, expertise and record of achievement.
The second week of the course was equally impressive, with more of a focus on peace and security.
Institutions in International Law was not only a challenging and exciting academic course but also an enriching personal experience. It gave undergraduate and postgraduate law students who do not normally have classes together a chance to meet each other and form relationships that will last well beyond this trip. Whilst being immersed in a stimulating and dynamic learning environment, we also had the good fortune to explore the picturesque and culturally diverse city of Geneva.
Interacting with esteemed professionals in lectures and at social evenings provided a unique opportunity not only to benefit from their experience in international institutions, but also to improve our communication and networking skills.
Without the continuing support of the Law School, this valuable program would not be possible.
Our thanks go to the School, as well as to our instructors, whose time and effort helped make the course a success.
We walked away from Geneva grateful for having been a part of a unique subject. It is the opportunity to participate in programs such as this that sets Melbourne Law School apart from other institutions. We leave committed to ensuring that the knowledge gained will be used to its full potential and that our future career dreams will become a reality.