Law and Business

Claire Churchward - Netherlands

Amsterdam Canal
Dutch flags in the Hague

Photos from Claire's study experience in the Netherlands

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In Semester 2, 2015 I chose to study abroad in the Netherlands. My host university, Vrije Universiteit (UV), is located in the country’s capital, Amsterdam. The university itself was initially what attracted me to the Netherlands. The subjects offered by its law and history faculties aligned with my academic interests. One of many academic highlights was the opportunity to study Internet Governance. This is not only an interesting field but also a new and rapidly developing one, which will affect the lives of people all over the world. It’s great to see that UV is preparing its students not only for legal practice in the present, but also looking to the future of the profession.

Though initially I picked the country for the specific university, as I researched Amsterdam I quickly fell in love with it. Amsterdam is such a unique city. Despite some of its less favourable associations, it’s beautiful, safe and overflowing with culture. I cannot recommend it enough as a destination for either study or travel.

Prior to my exchange, I had never been overseas before. There was something really special about my first real experience with a different culture being one of complete immersion and living in the community, rather than just simply visiting and observing. There were times when this lack of experience in independent travel was challenging, but overall it enriched my experience.

I can’t talk about highlights as an exchange student without mentioning all of the side travel I did whenever I had the chance. Over the course of weekends, Christmas and New Year, I visited seven additional countries. I got to see and experience so many things I’ve dreamed about for years. If I had to pick a favourite place, it would have to be the Scottish Highlands.

Just do it. At what other point in your life are you going to have the opportunity to pack your life into a suitcase, and move to the other side of the world just because you can? When you’re at university, you’re probably at a stage where you don’t have to worry about things like mortgages or the effects of relocating a family. Chances are, you don’t have those kinds of commitments which limit your ability to do something radical like this. You may never have another opportunity like this in your life so make the most of it.

ACU has grants and bursaries to help remove the cost barriers than might prevent students from taking advantage of this opportunity, making this much more doable than you might think.

I chose the double degree of Law and Global studies for a number of reasons, one of which was the integrated exchange component of the Global Studies curriculum. I had always wanted to travel and by making it a requirement to complete my degree, it would force me out of my comfort zone and onto a plane.

In Year 12, I considered similar dual degrees at other institutions but none of them appealed to me as strongly as ACU. ACU was establishing its new Law faculty with a student focus, not a business focus. The school of Law was and still is committed to small class sizes, which foster a personalised learning environment. As students this allows us to get to know our lecturers personally, which is unheard of at bigger universities. The staff, both academic and administrative, are incredible and care about all the students as individuals.

Another factor, which drew me to ACU, was the focus on practical learning and social responsibility. The pro-bono program is a unique innovation to ACU. Students are required to go out into the workplace and acquire practical legal skills that can’t be taught in a classroom. Additionally, the work must be not-for-profit, providing legal services to people and groups who otherwise may not have been able to get assistance. This commitment to social justice and professional responsibility aligns with my personal values, and I wanted to be a part of a university that shared my passions.

At this stage, I still have 18 months left of my degree and my interests are varied so I am still considering my options. If I pursue legal practice, I am seriously considering family law and child protection. These areas of law have such a profound impact on the everyday lives of so many people. To be able to help people whose lives are in upheaval through compassion and empathy, not just legal services, would be an immense privilege.