Emma wrote this at the end of her second year here at Christ's College, Cambridge studying Law. She is from Toronto, Canada and took the International Baccalaureate with English, History and Chemistry at Higher Level and Biology, French and Mathematics at Standard Level.
How easy did you find it to settle into College?
Christ’s is incredibly easy to settle into – everyone is extremely friendly and the College staff (tutors, accommodation, finance, library, IT, director of studies) are all easily accessible to make your transition as smooth as possible. Being at Christ’s also makes it easy to settle into to the city given the College is in the centre of town nothing being more than a 15 minute walk away.
I’m a bit of a fake international as I have family in the UK and it has been much easier for me to adjust than many other international students. The holidays and exam terms are difficult when UK and European students have the opportunity to go home – I've learnt how important it is to take a break from Cambridge in your own way whether that means visiting a friend in the UK or taking a day trip for yourself.
What advice would you give sixth formers considering an application?
Read the news, be familiar with issues that interest you how they should be resolved and why it is important that they are resolved. The most important skill to practice is advocating both sides, and knowing how to adapt your argument when presented with a new set of facts or crucial piece of information. The university provides some introductory resources, but you are advised not to research/teach yourself the law itself - often researching select issues of the law in advance restricts prospective students who cling on to it in an interview rather than thinking on their feet to answer the direct question asked by the interviewers.
How did you find the application process?
The application process itself is easy but thorough. The UK system is very different from an application to a Canadian university. In Canada, students make separate applications to each university. This means they are able to cater each personal statement to the specific university and the course they are applying for. Canadian university applications place a lot of focus on extra-curricular activities from high school. Canadian students applying to the UK are advised to resist the temptation to focus purely on their extra-curricular achievements. For an application to Cambridge, however the most important element is demonstrating your interest and proficiency for the subject you intend to study. Once you join Christ's you can get involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities, but it's important to understand that they only use academic criteria to assess you.
It's important to understand that they only use academic criteria to assess you.
What papers did you study this year?
There is a range in the papers you can take. Both the Land and Contract paper are mandatory, but for my optional papers I took:
Comparative Law (where you compare tort and contract law of England, France and Germany) – As an international student this is a perfect way to contrast the common law.
International Law – Again as an international student this is of great interest to me. It is a complex subject with a strong reputation among employers. It is extremely well supervised and a rewarding challenge.
Administrative Law – this is a natural extension of constitutional law, which is a mandatory paper in first year. It is well taught and is great for students who like both theory/essay style papers as well as practical/problem question style.
What was your favourite thing you worked on this year?
It is enjoyable choosing subjects that relate to one another to show a clear path of interest. Comparative Law and Contract Law work really well as a duo. Administrative Law similarly complements the Constitutional paper completed in first year. International law, although a fairly stand-alone subject, has a broad array of topics within it dealing with complex questions including ‘what is law and why is it binding?
How has your workload changed since first year?
Second year law is much more time-consuming than first year. While first year only has four subjects (one of which feels like a half paper), second year has five full subjects. It takes much more focus and time management to prepare for supervisions throughout the year and tackle all five exams in Easter Term. This year I have had approximately eleven hours of lectures a week and about 2-3 supervisions per week (a supervision every other week for each subject). I usually like to work in the library during the day and my room at night. Change it up – it helps your focus.
Managing the workload and extra activities and a social life is difficult but possible. You must be prepared to let some things slide and revisit them in the holidays. You need to prioritise which readings you do. It is extremely helpful to work with your peers rather than against them – this is not to say you don’t do your own reading but everyone thinks differently and others will pick up things you will have missed and vice versa.
Everyone thinks differently and others will pick up things you will have missed and vice versa.
What have you most enjoyed so far about your time at Christ’s?
The people and the environment. Everyone is incredibly friendly and inclusive. The College is a safe haven from the bustling city centre and has many spaces to create friendships and get involved with College sport and societies (buttery, Fellows' Garden, sports pitches, 'JCR' (common room), Function Room for parties etc.). Personally I was part of the College Netball team, Hockey team, Christ’s Women’s Sport Society, Christ’s Law Society and Christ's Feminist Society. I also compete as part of the Cambridge University Dancesport Team, occasionally take part in a Cambridge University Musical, and still find time to go out and hang out with friends!
College Sport is a great low commitment way to get involved in College and get an active break from coursework on the weekends. They require no previous experience in the sport (I had never played field hockey before coming to Christ’s), and no training throughout the week which means that anyone can take part. The most anyone is required to do is show up to the matches once a week. If you decide to become captain (as I did for both mixed and ladies netball) then the commitment also involves organizing the matches between Colleges.
Have you received any particular support from College?
My Director of Studies has been a great support when work has gotten the best of me. I never had to rearrange supervisions or deadlines myself but my Director of Studies definitely made it known that this option was available to me should I need it. He also encouraged me to take breaks and visit the family I do have in the UK.
How do you spend your holidays?
I usually spend short vacations at my aunt’s house in Cambridge, and for the longer vacations I go wherever an internship takes me (often London) or home in Toronto. This summer I have two types of internship lined up:
Mini-Pupillage – these are week-long placements at a Chambers where you shadow the work of a barrister. Usually it is best to do three of these (in the area of law in which you hope to practice) before applying for a pupillage. I have three mini-pupillages arranged at some of the top criminal sets in London. The university is not involved in the application process – you must find and apply to them yourselves however, past students and Director of Studies' will be able to help advise you should you have any questions.
Office of the Lord Chief Justice of NI – this is a unique internship for penultimate law students in the UK to work at the Royal Court of Justice in Belfast. The application for this internship was received through the university email. They required university confirmation of your academic record and College confirmation of your identity for security checks. Both the university and College were really accommodating in providing the necessary requirements.
As a course, Law at Cambridge appealed to me both because of its logic and prestige, but also due to the potential for networking it provides, and internships form a large part of this.
Do you know which papers you’ll be taking next year?
I haven't fully decided all my papers for next year yet. Again, there are two that are mandatory; EU and Equity law, but I'm also planning on taking:
Conflict of Laws (private international law) – This complements the courses I have already done (International, Comparative, Contract, Tort) and the courses I will do (EU law) to show a clear path of interest in international law. In the globalisation of interactions today, international aspects of a case are unavoidable.
Intellectual Property – this area of law involves trademarking and patents. In the age of technology this is an area of growing importance that requires strong logic in technical areas (a strength of mine). It is important by second and third year to cater to your own strengths rather than seek out the ‘easy courses’ or follow exactly what a past student has done.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming years?
Practical experience as a lawyer. Law is a vocational subject, so after Cambridge, I intend to do the Bar Professional Training Course and seek a pupillage in order to become a barrister.
Please be aware if you're considering an application that our student writers describe their experiences. Although the majority of the information stays the same, some details may change from year to year. Do read the student profiles in combination with our undergraduate admissions pages for full information.