The experience of a lifetime

Dominique Simsion saw going on exchange during her Juris Doctor as a way to appease the regret she held for not doing it during undergraduate studies.

Sacre Coeur, Paris, France.

Sacre Coeur, Paris, France.

It turned out to be a highlight of not only her degree but also her entire life.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life," she says.

"Having done Arts as an undergraduate here at Melbourne, I kind of regretted not going on exchange in that time, so when I got an email asking if I was interested in exchange, I thought I would just go to the seminar and think about it.

"I ended up applying and have not once regretted my decision. Everyone always says it about exchange, but it's true; it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Leige Belgium

Liege, Belgium.

Student exchange is available to Melbourne JD students who complete at least four semesters of study prior to going abroad, and have and maintain at least a 65 per cent average when applying.

Students can choose from more than two dozen partner institutions on five continents to complete their one semester of exchange, which entails undertaking a full course load.

Compulsory subjects cannot be undertaken on exchange.

Dominique, a third-year student, originally wanted to study in a city in which she could practise her French, however, ended up choosing to attend Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium where she spent the first semester of 2015.

Subject choices and the opportunity for travel were deciding factors in choosing the Flemish institute.

Dominique Simson

Liege, Belgium.

"I have always wanted to study in Europe, and I was tossing up between Dublin in Ireland and Leuven in Belgium. Ultimately, I chose Leuven because of the breadth of subjects there, the University's reputation, and its perfect location in the centre of Europe," Dominique says.

Her partner Duncan, whose career in IT allows him to work remotely, joined her for the eye-opening experience.

"Meeting people from all walks of life, from all over the world, and discussing and debating ideas with those who held views very different from my own – that was definitely a highlight," Dominique says.

"The travel was also amazing. Having a base in Belgium and the opportunity to go to Northern Italy for a week, or Amsterdam for the weekend with friends, was incredible."

San Sebastian, Spain.

San Sebastian, Spain.

The 23-year-old, who focused on international law subjects at KU Leuven, says student exchange has significantly impacted on her career outlook, despite her urge to push instead into family law.

"Studying on exchange has been eye opening. At times, MLS can be a little bit insular, but studying overseas exposed me to different ways of thinking, and introduced me to people who had such inspiring and fascinating plans for their future," she says.

"I thought I would always live in Melbourne – I love Melbourne, it's a great city and I had never really considered living elsewhere. Now, however, I can certainly see myself moving and working overseas sometime in the future."

Having originally wanted to study policy rather than become a lawyer, Dominique says the JD has led her to discover a passion for family law, with an internship in Victoria Legal Aid's family division lined up for the near future.

More information on student exchange can be found here.

By Andy Walsh