I was very glad to see experienced professors reaffirm the idea of “freedom of grasping possibilities”
Vanessa is a Bachelor of Laws student who started at the Segovia campus. She is half-German and half-Iranian, and has travelled often to Spain, having always had a home here. She was born in Hamburg and has lived in Spain, England, France, and Italy. Learn more about Vanessa and her experience at IEU and during her internship from her interview for Faces of IEU:
What are your hobbies and interests?
Something that has now come to be a hobby but previously meant much more to me is ballet, as well as other hobbies relating to artistic performance, be it theatre, music, literature or fine arts. I also like to simply spend time with other people and have pleasant, enriching conversations! In other words, I like to talk. At a more professional level, my interests relate to the field of human rights and all associated subjects – advocacy, practical help, research and reporting. So one thing that has always been one of my main interests is writing, and I hope that one day this hobby will become a significant part of my professional, daily life.
Why did you choose IEU?
The main reason was definitely the uniqueness of the Bachelor of Laws that IEU offers. Its significant focus on international law, and its comparative way of approaching legal questions and the entire study of law itself, seemed very promising and had a pioneering, innovative feel. This was particularly striking to me as it’s something necessary in our modern world, where legal questions involving several countries are the norm. Since I wanted to do something else after university instead of becoming a lawyer in a particular country, I was looking for a degree that would take a broader approach and provide students with a more general foundation. It was also interesting in that it focused on understanding concepts rather than learning specific legislation by heart. Apart from that I liked the idea of having other courses mixed into the programme, for example those relating to humanities. The last but very decisive factor for me was IE’s very international environment, which demonstrated its openness, tolerance and diversity. I have always felt most comfortable in this kind of environment and so, with that as a feature, the decision to come to IEU was very straightforward.
What do you want to do after graduation?
I want to continue studying! In order to be able to practice as a lawyer, even if it may not be my main professional goal, I definitely want to do a Master of Law and obtain my license to practice. My general idea for after graduation was to specialize in the field of Human Rights and International Criminal Law, to start as a human rights lawyer, and then later on turn to journalism. In order to do that I am looking for a more specific Human Rights or International Criminal Law LLM. I intend to do my Máster de Acceso (Qualifying Degree) online alongside a specialized LLM.
About her experience at IEU
What is the most valuable thing you have learned from a professor about your future career path?
One of the most valuable and reaffirming things I have learned from several IE professors is that, no matter what path one chooses to follow – further education, testing out and changing careers, beginning something new, or doing several things at the same time – this is definitely not automatically excluded by specializing in a certain field after university. At the end of the day, a career path is not necessarily straightforward, and we decide what it looks like.
As I aim to begin one profession by starting with another, or even carry them out concurrently, I was very glad to see experienced professors reaffirm the idea of “freedom of grasping possibilities”, at times just by the sheer example of how their own career paths were shaped.
Are you a member of any clubs at IEU? If so, which ones?
I tried out a couple of IEU clubs in my first year, and that made me aware of what was missing. So in my second year I founded the IEU Drama Club. I had been part of the previous one during my first year, but a fresh start was needed. Being in Segovia, we had a great time using the diversity of the beautiful campus and finding inspiration in our surroundings! In Madrid we changed the focus a bit from acting and writing, to going to see plays.
Have you participated in a Lab at IEU? What was it about, and what was your role? What did you learn?
In my second year I participated in the Communications Lab in order to improve skills like film editing, planning, recording and conducting interviews. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of having different faculties around me and learn things that are actually taught in other degrees (something that IE offers very well) and it was a good experience! Those experiences are important, especially so for me, as I want to work in journalism later on but I’m currently studying law. They automatically make you more familiar with practices and skills you may need in the future through a hands-on approach.
About her professional experience
Please tell us about your internship.
Since I started IE, I have had a couple of internships related to my degree. At the end of my first year, I went to Mongolia for human rights support and worked there mainly as a communicator for a local NGO, as well as on matters related to the field of International Criminal Law with a focus on prison conditions and juvenile justice. In the following years, I did law firm internships in Germany as well as here in Madrid, and since my third year I’ve been working in the legal department of a Madrid-based Spanish NGO. The NGO is specialized in international criminal justice and is a very influential promoter of the concept of universal jurisdiction. The reason I did this internship alongside my classes was because I wanted to be able to learn and work for the very reason I studied law in the first place, and, in our third year, most courses had a different focus than the one I was aiming for, which made me look for an internship as an additional learning experience. Having the possibility to do an internship as part of my curriculum, and so receive credits for it, is always a great way to “personalize” one’s degree. At some point it replaces electives that would, for example, be less coherent with one’s plans and main interests in specific areas of law.
What did you learn about the legal sector whilst working on the internship?
I was able to deepen my knowledge of a topic I was always interested in but which, of course, could only be touched upon in classes where human rights and international criminal justice topics arise, like criminal law, public international law, litigation or in Moot Courts. Learning by doing and building on the knowledge I already had was one of the most rewarding experiences. Even though the work I do for the NGO is mostly on the same topic, what I learn from it could not be more diverse: the knowledge and insights I get into many different countries’ legal systems is very valuable and greatly develops the comparative skills everyone develops on the LLB here.
How did IEU prepare you for the challenges involved in this internship?
Comparative working skills are definitely necessary in my workplace, and something IEU has helped me develop. I’m not just talking about dividing different legal systems’ approaches into “diverging” and “similar” categories, but more precisely about the implied virtues of any legal comparison: recognizing differences by identifying similarities, getting to the common core of many legal approaches by juxtapositioning, or excluding certain ideas or assumptions by knowing common patterns. At the end of the day, it is about understanding one particular aspect fully (be it through demarcation or inclusion), and being reassured in that understanding through previous comparisons.
Another aspect IEU transmits and that is useful in any internship, as was definitely the case in all of mine, is flexibility. On the one hand, this includes the flexibility required in your everyday life of going back and forth between classes, work and private life, but on the other hand, it includes flexibility at the workplace. Values like openness, a willingness to adapt to unexpected situations, accepting challenges or identifying the moments when you have to prioritize one thing over another (all of which often stem from a general attitude of flexibility), definitely are of great help if they’re a part of your working attitude, and in my opinion those are precisely some of the values one can take from attending IEU.