Julia [00:00:01] Hello, everyone, welcome to our virtual open day. My name is Julia, and I am going to be hosting that session. I am one of the course advisors at Queen Mary online. So I help students with the application process up until you become a student. Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope that you enjoy the session. Juan, could you tell us a bit about your background professionally and where are you speaking to us from today as well?
Juan [00:00:31] Hi, Julia. It's Juan, i'm based in South Africa, currently a master's student in the International Dispute Resolution Programme at Queen Mary Online. My background, I completed my undergraduate LLB degree in 2017 at a South African University. I was then offered a volunteering opportunity at an international non-governmental organisation in India, where I formed part of a volunteership programme with fellow researchers from across the globe working on a research project. I then returned to South Africa and became admitted as an advocate of the High Court, and since then I've been practising commercial law.
Padraig [00:01:20] And my name is Padraig Downey. I'm originally from Ireland and I've lived in New York, California, Paris, Rome and here in Dubai for the last 10 years, where I started a theatre group here and I also started a theatre movement. I'm studying the International Relations course, the master's course. I've worked as an actor, I worked as a director, mostly in political theatre. And also I'm very intent on empowering Emirati and Saudi women and putting them on stage as well. I have a masters that I did before in theatre, but that was 20 years ago, so please don't judge me. So it has been a baptism of fire to get back into this, but a brilliant one.
Julia [00:02:00] Amazing, so how have you found sort of getting back into your studies after such a long, long time
Padraig [00:02:08] A really healthy challenge, I was anxious at the beginning, I must say I was really nervous, starting again. But the college professors, the tutors, everyone has just been so supportive and I really feel like I have been elevated. I really feel like I have a new set of eyes to see the world, and I never regretted any decision I made with accepting this offer and with doing this course, I'm nearly finished, two months left and I'm already looking at other courses to do. I just have that fire in my belly again.
Julia [00:02:43] That's amazing. Could you just tell us a bit more about, in terms of academic support, how you found working with your professors and also with Canvas as well?
Padraig [00:02:52] Canvas, actually I had no issues with it at all. At the beginning of the week, you're set an introductory activity, that was always a really nice way to start the week, that would establish what the theme is, what you're studying, and it would allow some interaction with other students. And I actually got to know a lot of the students on my course as well because we'd be in the same modules and they'd be in different parts of the world. But we'd all be on different timelines, but we always respond to each other. And there was always a great respect there. The teacher as well, or the professor, would also respond to what you input into canvas. So they also direct you into kind of refocusing your points, maybe looking at refining your information so that later in the week, you would be ready for the webinar that you would have. And it would also be highly advisable to do the readings as well. The readings that were set out for the week were already allocated and there were links for many of them which were within Canvas. The lecture itself would be within Canvas. And also, the library is a great resource as well. You have access to every single book, every chapter, 20 years ago, I had to go to photocopy rooms and probably illegally photocopy some things. And then, of course, borrow them back then, but now you can actually get everything digital. So for me, who travels a lot, I'm always in transit. It's really good to be able to have all of those downloaded and to read it and also to catch up on webinars if you miss one of them. Of course, we're all busy. We all have responsibilities. You can catch up on that webinar and listen to it, although it is much better to be at the webinar and definitely to have your reading done as well.
Juan [00:04:33] So firstly, one of the striking features of the course and Queen Mary in general is the fact that it's part of the Russell Group, which of course, makes it easy for you to find opportunities after your studies. And then also specifically the School of International Arbitration at Queen Mary, I believe, was one of the first really academic institutions that focussed solely on the international arbitration. And that was really setting the trend going forward and developing the whole field in general. So I looked at the staff that was part of the International Dispute Resolution Programme. Typically, they are both in practise, but also academics, that was appealing to me as well. And just the fact that, like I said, Queen Marys International Arbitration School is just so known. Typically, when you go to say, for example, a practitioners discussion or something practitioners would would be present, they would always revert back to say a survey that's been done by Queen Marys School of International Arbitration. It's so well known, it's so renowned in the field that it was just a no brainer for me at the end of the day to join Queen Mary specifically for its Arbitration Programme, and I don't regret a second of my journey at Queen Mary. It's just been so informative and I've learnt a lot, so Queen Marys really impressed me thus far.
Padraig [00:06:04] Well, as Juan mentioned and alluded to, it's a Russell Group University, so you know it's going to have that quality. Also I was really taken in with student advisers who advised you on the phone. I felt that they actually listened and I was accepted on other courses in the UK as well. But it was really that kind of personal touch that I really warmed to, because for me, I was a little bit nervous. So I thought, ok, if they're this humane on the phone, well then I think I'll be in for something special here. The other reason as well is because in the Middle East, where I am at the moment, you can't have a master's certificate or parchment with online written on it because they don't recognise it. And the wonderful thing about the course in International Relations, and I'm sure about the other courses that at Queen Mary is that they don't write that, it's a proper masters. So you feel like even though you're online, you're getting the full package of that masters. Obviously, if you're there in person, it's a different experience, as we all know, but our lives are not set up like that anymore, especially at the time when I started it, COVID was rampant. So really, I don't feel like I've missed out because of that. But at the same time, when I get that master's degree certificate, it will just say master's in International Relations, which is so important for my work.
Juan [00:07:21] True, Julia. So, firstly, while I was busy, actually after I'd done the module on international commercial arbitration, the word spread and I was approached by a senior counsel working as part of a arbitration method, at the I.C.C (International Chamber of Commerce). And he actually asked me if I would form part of his team as an assistant counsel and assisting with some research and etc.. And I think that the knowledge that I gained solely through my studies enabled me at that stage to really put my academic knowledge into practise. And that was already a stepping stone going forward because I think the knowledge that you gain, people quickly realise that you definitely have a firm grasp on international arbitration. So that was a benefit that I already had. And going forward, I think I can sustain that and I hope to really put my knowledge once I'm done with this degree, into practise. Apart from arbitration, in the meantime, just bearing in mind that this is not only a arbitration Masters degree, but International Dispute Resolution programme, I was also asked to sit as a mediator in some commercial disputes, which was really, I was really flattered by this. And that's all because the word spread that im enrolled at Queen Mary, and obviously, I've got a bit of advantage over some of the colleagues who might just have exposure to domestic arbitration. So going forward, I think it will open some doors. And yeah, I'm looking forward to what the future holds.
Padraig [00:09:10] Yeah, I think the importance of diplomacy and how that can never be overlooked, especially in a country where I'm from, Ireland, where we only made strides when we actually sat down at the table and decided to make peace. And I mean, it's an imperfect peace, but a peace is a process. So it's looking at the processes of things and systems that are really important. Also, the fact that you look at maybe, I feel that we're so divided in the world at the moment, and this course really looks at all and examines all perspectives, including liberal and realist perspectives, for example, and the feminist perspective. And I think that it's great to have that time to reflect, but also to listen to each other because, you know, there's about 40 of us on our course and we're all from different places. We grew up in different systems and some from ex-communist countries, some from capitalist countries, etc. and it's just wonderful to hear other perspectives and to listen. And I think that's also important to make a more informed decision based on the readings of the course, based on multiple sources, based on what the theories say, but also on the human element as well, which I think is often absent. Because of the way it's set up on Canvas. You always have to kind of put that time into the Canvas at the start of the week for the introductory activity, then responding to your professor and the other students. Then at the end of the week, you'd have a challenge activity, which was always really interesting, I must say. And the readings, of course, as Juan said, I mean, sometimes there's maybe two or three core readings each week in International Relations, and they're the important ones to read. If you have time, go and read some of the others. And actually, for your own enjoyment, read them as well. But it never felt like it was a chore. I mean, of course, we all have responsibilities. We all feel tired, we get sick. Things happen in family. But I always found this was almost like my comfort blanket. It was something I really looked forward too. And that's because if you have an interest in it and a spark for it or you feel like it will further your career or further you as a person, well then it's worth it. It's like going to the gym, no one likes going to the gym. Well, unless maybe some people do, but I don't hang around with those people. But you know, you do actually want to further yourself. And that does take work.
Juan [00:11:26] Okay. So I think you need to know a few cool things throughout your studies, and I think it's good that I'm in a position to actually share this view at this stage before you actually commence your studies, because most of the things that I learnt was a process and you have the benefit now of knowing these things. Firstly, I think its very important to get accustomed to the library systems because when you do your assignments, you'll be on a time limit or some time pressure, exams as well to find things on the library that you would need to add. For example, if there's evidence of independent research and reading that you've done apart from what's been prescribed, you might end up getting a better mark. So I think just getting accustomed to the library systems, how they work, it's not a overly technical, complicated thing, but I think you do need some exposure, even just if you play around it. It's very important to do that. Then being aware of the plagiarism and the rules and knowing how to properly cite authorities, being able to really write effectively, to condense a very complicated, convoluted perhaps idea into just a few words. You've got strict limits on 1500 words for your assignments and a few thousand with your exams. So just be able to really get accustomed to writing effectively and get to the point quite quickly in your writing, at least. And I think that's really all you need at this stage is just to at least know of these things because it will be useful on your path towards getting your degree at the end of the day. And I think, as I said earlier, just make sure that you get some sort of self-discipline just in terms of getting your reading done. I think that's critical in any postgraduate degree, to do reading. And it's very important that you make time to do that, whether or not you do it for a few hours every week or you do it on a weekend, it doesn't really matter. Just make sure that you get your reading done and you'll be on a good path to success at the end of the day.
Padraig [00:13:53] I think first and foremost with writing, obviously, it's an academic course, so you have to retrain yourself. And for me, I had to untrain myself to retrain myself, if that makes sense because when I was in university in Ireland and America, I, of course had two different systems. I had to change twice. But, I think when you're younger, you're much more willing to go with it. I think when you're older, you get into bad habits. And so I think it's looking at their system and what writing is acceptable. But the great thing is that there's lots of different examples and they're all assessed so you can see what the level is like and what the standard is like. And that makes it less daunting because you can see what the standards are. The other thing is to look at the Rubric, which is all on Canvas and to see that even if you do all your reading, you have a good structure, you attempt the argument and that you have some analysis, you're going to do fine, you're actually going to do ok.
[00:14:47] So I think once you get past that kind of first stage of just worry and just thinking you're not good enough, in my case, I can just speak from my point of view. I think you get this confidence and then you're willing to tackle things and you're willing to take things on. The other thing is that it's the Harvard system of referencing they're all pretty much of a much, but I come from a theatre background where its MLA. So that was just a little bit of a change, which wasn't that bad. And there is, I must say, on Canvas, a course that you can do, it's about a six week course that you can do to tweak your writing and to kind of improve your writing. The other wonderful thing, and I think everyone should really pay heed to this is that when you have an essay, your essays are there so around. You know, if you have a 12 week module, you'll have to do two essays in nternational Relations, we don't have exams, it's just two essays. And the first essay usually comes about week six/ week seven. So you have a reading week that you can plan on, maybe week four, what essay you think you might like to do and start plotting out the structure, start familiarising yourself with it and really get ready to do it on that reading week. But you can also discuss with your professor, go through the structure, submit a structure and a plan. And I think that's really helpful, especially at the start when you're feeling your way because they can really give you some excellent feedback, they can make you feel at ease. And you know, you really can feel like you can accomplish that much better, too. And as time goes by, you really get into the hang of what way they mark and what grades you think you might have, and prepared in respect to the work that you put in. The other thing I would say as well is when you go to the webinars, take part, speak, don't be afraid. I know sometimes people were a little bit nervous at that in case you might feel silly. Or we might have a, you know, I teach as well, theatre students, and sometimes it's hard to get their point of view across. And I think that's the thing, don't be afraid to give your points of view because that's when the most meaningful work takes place. And that's something we learnt early on and our tutors were just fantastic. They've always been so approachable and so helpful as well. The other thing as well is for the dissertation, which takes time to think about what you want to do. That's half the battle, just coming up with a proposal. Anything that you liked throughout the course module, jot down. I used to use my iPhone, but you can use also there's a reflection piece in Canvas as well that you can use and your dissertation will come from that. So mine was pretty generic, so it came from my notes that I would take down or a eureka moment. 'Hey, this was really good. I noticed this in the webinar today. Wouldn't this be great to study further?' So I'd make little notes like that. And then my dissertation title came from that. So that's another tip as well.
Juan [00:17:36] I think Patrick also said this, but I think it's important, if you can, just to make some notes either with pen and paper or on a phone or something, because that saved me a lot of effort this year when I, I'm currently busy with the final module, which is the dissertation module. Effectively, I wrote my proposals just by making notes for my studies. But it wasn't just notes from course content, it was also notes that I made through my own independent reading and research that I did just out of curiosity. Do make some notes, it really helps you, especially at a later stage when you have to write a dissertation, maybe also write down some of the authors that you found interesting, some of the book titles or article titles that you can refer back to later. So at the end of the day, it really is helpful to, and it's also encouraged to write a dissertation on something that interests you. Then also, I do agree that it's important to participate in the weekly webinars. I remember when I started studying, I was a bit shy in the beginning to actually get involved with webinars and ask a lot of questions. I think definitely feel free to do that and don't be shy. It's helpful. It not only helps you, it helps the academic staff, the tutors, whoever ever, also your fellow students, just to know. That ok, we're not alone in not understanding this, someone else is struggling, and it just really opens up the conversation and academic engagement, so definitely do that. And then lastly, I think for me, like I said earlier, getting started as soon as possible. So what typically, I don't know if it's similar in other programmes, but in the International Dispute Resolution Programme. Typically, the content would be loaded for the next week on a Friday afternoon. I would then, over the weekend, say Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon, depending on how you feel, you can maybe just get readings, get started reading on the slides. As I said earlier, the weekly content on canvas and then take some time. So pick a day or take Sunday or take some time during the week off and then you can actually just reflect on what the content is all about for that week, just reflecting on what you've read on Canvas and then getting into your weekly prescribed reading, for example, the one or two or three articles that would be essential reading for that week. And yeah, I think those are the three important things that I can really say at this stage would be, it would be helpful good practises for students going forward in their studies.