Postcard From Abroad: Exchange Student Goes ‘Down Under’

Zeinab Bakillah ’20 Spends Portion of Third Year Studying in Sydney
Zeinab Bakillah with a kangaroo

Bakillah pets a kangaroo at Australia Wildlife Walkabout Park. Photos courtesy Zeinab Bakillah ’20

November 18, 2019

G’day from Australia! I’m currently on exchange for the semester at the University of Sydney Law School. It is springtime here, the weather has warmed up, and the morning birds are louder than ever. A lot of people don’t know that you can study abroad while in law school, but I can tell you it has been the most rewarding experience.

Why did I choose to study abroad? Because so much of the law today is international. An increasingly globalized world has led to more international-based disputes. Whether the root of the conflict involves the parties to a contract, the location of a project to be financed, an arbitration center or the applicable law, it is common to see the impact of multiple countries on legal issues today.

During my 2L year at UVA, I traveled to Nepal as part of the Law School’s Human Rights Study Project. In my final paper for the course, I wrote about transitional justice efforts in several countries, including Nepal. Transitional justice may involve judicial measures or other forms of redress following conflict that involves human rights abuses, as was the case in Nepal’s decade-long civil war.

I have been able to further my studies in human rights law and, more particularly, transitional justice here at the University of Sydney, where I am enrolled in a course on the rule of law. My final research essay has allowed me to take a deeper dive into transitional justice, but with a focus on the re-establishment and cultivation of the rule of law through transitional efforts.

One of the highlights of my semester has been another course, Criminology. We recently visited a maximum facility women’s prison, the Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre in New South Wales, in order to understand the daily lives of female inmates in the state and apply what we learned in our coursework to the real world. Talking to inmates and witnessing the daily operations of an Australian prison has allowed me to compare the correctional facilities here to those in the United States and gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences between the two criminal justice systems.

Beyond the exposure to Australian and international law through different courses, I have been fortunate enough to experience a new city, country and continent. The best way to understand a different culture is to immerse yourself in it. Going on exchange has allowed me to travel to many parts of Australia and nearby countries. I flew to Tasmania and drove on the left side of the road for the first time. I went to Melbourne and watched Australian football, something I have yet to completely understand. I spent my spring break traveling the South Island of New Zealand going zip lining, riding a jet boat, hiking the Franz Josef glacier, photographing breathtaking landscapes and much more. Next week, I am off to explore the East Coast of the country, starting at the Great Barrier Reef and ending in Byron Bay, before flying back to Sydney.

Studying abroad in Sydney has been one of the most incredible experiences of my law school career. I am beyond grateful to have had this opportunity of a lifetime.

Read More

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge

    Sydney Harbour Bridge

  • Law School students with a kangaroo

    Bakillah takes a selfie with a kangaroo at the Australia Wildlife Walkabout Park. (David Wang ’20 was among those who joined the fun.)

  • View of the Sydney Opera House

    View of the Sydney Opera House

  • Bakillah and a friend watch an Australian rules football game

    Bakillah and a friend watched an Australian rules football game in Melbourne. The Cats played the Magpies.

  • Bakillah stops on the beach at the Great Ocean Road

    Bakillah makes a stop on the beach along the Great Ocean Road.

  • Scenery along the Great Ocean Road

    Scenery along the Great Ocean Road

  • Scenery driving in Tasmania

    While driving in Tasmania

  • Bruny Island, Tasmania

    Bruny Island, Tasmania

  • Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

    Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

  • Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

    Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

  • Milford Sound, New Zealand

    Milford Sound, New Zealand

  • A tree in Wanaka, New Zealand

    In Wanaka, New Zealand, the tree has its own hashtag: #thatwanakatree.

  • Bakillah hikes the glacier in Franz Josef, New Zealand

    Bakillah hikes the glacier in Franz Josef, New Zealand.

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