From Russian literature to case law: Tilly Houghton's road to MLS

Tilly Houghton is one of an increasingly large group of Melbourne JD students who have completed an undergraduate degree at another university. Reflecting on her transition between universities, Tilly says that her teachers and peers are the main reason that coming to MLS has been such a positive experience.

From Russian literature to Law

At the completion of her undergraduate studies in literature at Deakin University, Tilly Houghton left Melbourne behind and spent a year teaching English in Prague.

Returning to Australia in 2015, Tilly was looking at different graduate study options. She had always wanted to study law and had heard positive things about the Melbourne JD.

“Obviously Melbourne Law School's reputation proceeds it wherever you go and I was excited by the idea of a challenge,” Tilly says.

Yet, having completed her undergraduate degree at another university, Tilly was uncertain of what to expect.

“You never know what the experience is going to be like until you're actually there. So I was a bit wary that I wouldn't really fit in or that there would be some sort of mismatch there.”

To Tilly’s delight, not only was she admitted to the Melbourne JD, but she has since discovered that having an undergraduate degree from a different university is no barrier to settling into the MLS community.

“It’s a really brilliant environment here at Melbourne. I think the highlight has definitely been my peers – meeting so many people who are just genuinely passionate about so many different things and who think in different ways.”

“The staff members have also been a highlight – they have brilliant minds, but more importantly they’re so approachable as well.”

Not only did Tilly study an undergraduate degree at a different university, but she also wrote an honours thesis on Russian literature!

While she is now a law student, she still holds onto her passion for literature and art, and makes time for that when she’s not studying.

“There's a fair few collectives here at MLS run by really creative people and I'm really interested in going to those sorts of workshops. I also spend a lot of time at art galleries. So I never really lost touch with my art experience in that sense.”

In fact, Tilly says that having a diverse background – and maintaining interests outside of the law – is a key to success at law school.

“Having a background has opened up a lot of legal volunteering roles for me. I was at the Mental Health Legal Centre for a good stint and I also did a little bit of research for the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.”

Tilly believes that no one should consider admission to the Melbourne JD unachievable.

“While it is a very rigorous course, I don't think that it's impossible for anyone,” she says.

“My advice would just be to focus on what you're good at, to focus on what you care about, and also just to be very open to learning things that you might not be interested in at first blush. For example, I thought that I would find contracts the dullest thing in the entire world. Of course, I quite like it now!”

As for what the future holds, Tilly is considering bringing together her artistic and legal studies to pursue a career in art restitution – but is keeping her options open.

“I'm thinking about art restitution just because it’s got a lot of international law involved, but also a lot of cultural issues as well. I find that fascinating.”

“So, that's one possible option. But I came in with a fairly open textured plan and I’m still very open-minded.”

By Blake Connell.

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