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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Why this Taiwanese student chose to study law in Scotland

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Kristen Wan from Taiwan grew up as a cultural third child who spoke English and Mandarin at home, and English exclusively at her American International School. Not surprisingly, her higher education journey took her abroad to the University of Edinburgh.

What started as a friendly joke between friends that she should become a lawyer Because she liked to argue led to a real fascination with discipline. Today, She works two jobs in addition to her studies and plans to qualify as a solicitor in Scotland or join a law firm in London after she graduates.

Below she shares her experience as a law student at the University of Edinburgh so far and how she aligns with her roles as a student leader at LawPALS, her careers and her studies:

Tell us about your interest in law – what’s the story behind it?

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When I was a beginner looking to advance to uni, my first choice for major was Graphic Design. Art has always been my passion and I wanted to pursue a career in this field.

However, after weighing my options, I decided to oppose them because I wasn’t confident that I would be able to maintain my interest in art throughout the university. I had friends who joked that I would be a good fit to work in law because I liked to argue.

“I had friends who joked that I would be a good fit to work in law because I liked to argue,” she told Study International. Source: Kristen Wan

What started out as impromptu remarks led to a real fascination with the discipline. I started watching YouTube videos of high-profile cases with several plaintiffs with familiar names.

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I loved the critical thinking and “what if” aspect that many legal issues deal with. Simply, I thought “why not” and gave it a shot.

What made you choose to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland?

Coming from an American international education school in Taiwan, I was about to go to the United States. However, after considering the length of legal work there (not to mention the exorbitant costs of studying), I considered cheaper and more efficient alternatives in the UK.

Five universities were included in the UK and the only one in Scotland was the University of Edinburgh. After seeing endorsements from both the US and the UK, I chose Edinburgh because of the city’s rich history and prestigious law program at the university.

Although I was eager to accept my offer at UC Berkeley, I thought it was too much of a gamble for me. My parents had friends who had Ph.Ds studying at the University of Edinburgh and this gave me extra impetus to finalize my decision to study there.

What if I study law at a local institution? Would it have made a difference?

Studying at a local institution in Taiwan was never an option for me. I grew up as a cultural third child, so I never really felt like I fully belonged to Taiwanese society.

I spoke English and Mandarin at home and spoke English exclusively at school. I grew up around American born Chinese, so a lot of my manners are too western for the local Taiwanese.

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If I studied at a local institution, it would be a huge step outside my comfort zone to challenge my language skills beyond casual conversations. But I definitely saw myself becoming more comfortable speaking Mandarin and getting to know more of those from a local background.

You are busy with your studies and more. Tell us about your role as a Student Leader at LawPALS.

Each first year law student is assigned a LawPALS group where two leaders teach weekly sessions to demystify the legal curriculum. Some of our sessions include approaching the legal essay, preparing for exams and ascertaining the future of your career.

Although students seem to come for tips and tricks on how to master their academic work, I think the most attractive factor is hearing from seniors about their law school experience. Many of them were worried about their performance and didn’t know what to expect.

I found it the most rewarding program. There are not many international students compared to Scottish students but students from an international background come from all over the world.

With responsibilities such as your ambassador roles at Rate My Placement and Dentons, is it difficult to juggle your studies?

My job at Rate My Placement is more comfortable because I get paid on commission basis. I can accomplish tasks at my own pace and found this to be very manageable.

On the other hand, my role as an ambassador for the Denton campus is very demanding. I have goals for online participation that must be achieved while balancing the demands of internships and schoolwork.

University of Edinburgh

“Coming from an American international school in Taiwan, I was more than willing to go to the United States,” she says. Source: Kristen Wan

I think the role of Dentons Campus Ambassador has been by far the most rewarding as I have been able to speak directly with interns and recruit alumni to learn about the culture of the law firm.

Are your teachers at the University of Edinburgh supportive?

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Even before the pandemic, I didn’t really interact with my professors outside of class. But at the University of Edinburgh I was assigned a thesis supervisor and the subject of my second choice (which I wasn’t very interested in).

To add salt to my surgeries, my supervisor did not reply to my emails or meet with me. After two weeks of struggling to communicate with him, I went to management to see if I could get someone more experienced to oversee my topic.

What do you intend to do after graduation?

Currently, I am applying for graduate jobs with several law firms hoping that they will sponsor my Postgraduate Diploma in Law and offer two years of training so that I can become a solicitor in Scotland.

Another route I’m considering is joining a company in London (but that seems miles away). I believe this degree will adequately prepare me with the transferable skills I need to be a critical thinker.

University of Edinburgh

“I chose Edinburgh because of the city’s rich history and the university’s prestigious law program,” says Wan. Source: Kristen Wan

We need to know the food. How does it look compared to home?

Most people who study abroad would say the food is incomparable back home. My favorite place in Scotland is a Taiwanese tea and rice wrapping shop called Tebi Island – affordable and delicious.

Coming in second place is Noodle Home, a Chinese restaurant that serves the best “lanchoe noodles” (hand-pulled beef noodles) and lamb skewers. My least favorite is any restaurant that overcharges for home-cooked staples like sweet and sour chicken and fried noodles.

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