Preparing for your LLM degree
So you’ve got a place on an LLM programme. Before starting your studies, there are some things that you will need to consider and arrange. Preparation is important
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Reserving your place
Once you are accepted by your top choice, be sure to send in your deposit to reserve your place in a timely manner. If you are accepted by one of your secondary choices before you have heard from your number-one school, you may face a dilemma if you are required to send in a deposit immediately. Feel free to ask the school that has accepted you whether you can delay sending your deposit for a short time, and also ask your first-choice school to speed up its decision-making, being sure to do so politely.
Parting with your employer
Leaving your current job may fill you with joy, sadness or a mixture of the two. No matter which, it is important to resign in a highly professional manner. Once you have decided to leave, step carefully. Do not pop into your boss’s office and wax ecstatic about your new-found freedom. Instead, think about how much notice you should give. You will obviously give at least as much as is called for in your employment contract.
If you are still a law student
If you still have a few months left of your last term, do not assume that it is harmless to neglect your courses and party the rest of your time away. Make sure you graduate with the best grades possible. It is not unlikely that prospective employers in the future will examine your first law degree results with as much care as your LLM performance.
If you have not performed very well in your first law degree programme, this would be a good time to analyse why. Having done so, you can then address whatever problems emerge. So if your writing of research papers was sub-par, consult the best legal writing instructors available to you as well as former or current professors for hands-on help. Seek their advice regarding appropriate readings and exercises.
Immigration and visas
If you are going to study in a foreign country, you may need to get a student visa. Your school should send you the necessary forms and contact details to begin the application process. You may need to provide an enormous amount of detail about your personal history, financial capabilities and so on. In this time of international tension, the immigration authorities can take a long time to sort through this information, so by all means start the process as soon as possible.
Find out whether you will be covered by the school’s or country’s health insurance. If not, make arrangements to extend your own coverage. If you take prescription medications, be sure to get an adequate supply to bring with you. In addition, make sure that your current doctor provides you with documentation that you can present at customs, if necessary, to justify your possession of these medications. (This can also form the basis for a new prescription from a local doctor.) If you face any ongoing medical issues, by all means register with a doctor upon arrival.
Once you are accepted, the school should send an information package containing details about the accommodation available. The school may:
An early visit to the school may be necessary to determine whether to live on or off campus, share a large flat or house with others and so on. Keep in mind that private housing can be difficult to find in some places, particularly at the beginning of the school year (early September or October). Do not plan to arrive at the beginning of your programme without having sorted out your housing well in advance.
Before you leave for your new country, you need to make sure that you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and other fees as well as living expenses for the duration of your course. Obtaining extra funds may be very difficult once you begin your course. Be sure that you have a means to transfer your funds cost-effectively before you set out.
What to bring with you
Consider carefully the climate you will be confronting, then pack appropriate clothing. If you intend to work part time as a lawyer during the programme, make sure to bring a suitable selection of professional clothing. Before packing any electrical equipment, make sure that it is compatible with the operative standards (voltage, plugs, etc) in your new location. Although you may well need to bring some of your old law books, try to limit the number you take with you. The law library should have what you require.
If you intend to bring your car, you may need to register (and insure) it in your new location. In many places, this will mean a safety and pollution inspection. You may also need to acquire a local driver’s licence, particularly if you plan to stay for more than 12 months.
Making a visit
Visiting the school once you are accepted can ease many potential problems. You can determine whether to live on or off campus, arrange for rental accommodation (and roommates), learn what you will be able to buy cheaply and easily in your new location (and thus not need to drag with you) and start the process of getting a bank account, driver’s licence, residency permit and so on.
Give yourself time
Given the importance of your forthcoming postgraduate programme, leave as little as possible to chance. Arriving early allows you to perform at your best from day one.