China to Melbourne proves a good move for JD student

Meng Yuan’s only knowledge of the law before starting law school came from her favourite television series - Suits, The Good Wife and How to Get Away with Murder. Now in her second year of the Melbourne JD, she is hoping to embark on a lifelong career in Australian law.

Photo of Meng Yuan

Making the decision to move from China to Melbourne to study the Juris Doctor was not an easy one for Meng Yuan. At the time, she held a bachelor degree in nuclear engineering from Wu Han University.

“I had dreamed of becoming a lawyer since primary school. However, I studied engineering during my undergraduate studies, which seemed about the furthest thing away from law as possible!” Meng says.

It was a combination of factors – encouragement from friends who had studied law, what she had heard about the city of Melbourne and the flexibility of the JD program itself - that finally convinced Meng to make the move.

“I had never been to Australia and I knew no one in Melbourne, but I decided to take the plunge,” she says.

Looking back on her decision, Meng says she has no regrets. This is not to say, however, that the experience of moving countries has not been challenging in some respects.

“I was an international student who had never been abroad, so studying in English was quite a challenge at first.”

However, Meng feels MLS offers the support structures to help international students settle into the school and Melbourne more generally. Meng was able to use class time and extra drop in sessions with her professors to catch up to speed.

Another helpful program was the MLS mentor program.

“My mentor has talked to me about everything – from finding work in Melbourne to Australian politics and history – so that has been really helpful,” she says.

In addition, being an international student comes with certain advantages, according to Meng.

“Being an international student makes you unique. You have different experiences to nearly everyone else in the classroom which adds value to your own learning and others.”

Approaching the midway point of her degree, Meng is now setting her sights on a career in the Australian legal scene, and hopes one day to become a barrister.

“I have seen many people become barristers in their 50s, so I still have a few years to get there, luckily!”

Meng’s advice to other Chinese students considering the Melbourne JD is to consider an undergraduate degree in an English-speaking country, but not to let a lack of English proficiency put them off law altogether.

“Language is a barrier you can definitely overcome if you are willing to put in the effort,” she says.

As for when she’s not studying, Meng is a self-proclaimed TV buff and has retained her love of US legal dramas.

“One thing that gets me through my note-taking is knowing that I get to watch an episode of Suits or The Good Wife when I’m done!”

Find out more about the Melbourne JD

By Blake Connell.