by William van Roosmalen, Victoria University of Wellington
For most undergraduates, a law degree will take anywhere between 4-6 years depending on whether you are completing a conjoint degree, you end up doing honours law, BA, or commerce (or other), and whether you can condense your study into a shorter period (this will depend on whether you need to work during summer to save money, the support networks you might need if grappling with an especially heavy work-load in a semester, and many other factors).
As a student living in Wellington, I quickly learned that the costs of living were not cheap and that a part-time job was necessary to fund living away from home for a time. I have been fortunate to work within the University for the last three years, however common jobs for students may be hospitality, retail, or something degree-related. This aspect of university life may not apply to students who have other ways of funding their study; this is also a common thing for a lot of my friends and people I study with.
But it is important to note that these years pass fast. As a final-year law and arts student, my job now is to figure out my individual tools and experiences that will be valuable moving into a career. Everyone is good at something, and often this will be something they also enjoy. It is important to find your something, and university is a great place to do that. Between study and work, your friends and family, it is a good idea to look for unique opportunities that probably won’t last.
These opportunities may seem vapid or uninteresting in the short-term, however often it is those that upon reflection provide the most learning and value. It may be regular staff training at work, an awkward blind-date with a friend of your parents, or an opportunity to meet with professional mentors – usually organised by your degree faculty. It may be a connection you make through a friend or family member, or when you are in public.
My advice is to seize on these when you can. They will end up providing tools and experiences you will later on value as part of your identity and individual worth. A great personal example that I can give, is the opportunity to contribute to this site as a law student to other law students. It is an opening for me to communicate ideas that many first-years don’t get the opportunity to hear, or to reinforce it if they didn’t hear the first time.
As the saying goes, the hardest part of going for a run is getting your running shoes on. This is a quote that has stuck with me since third form PE. It really emphasises that hard work will have its consequences and not working will do the opposite.
So, make the most of your connections through family – an awkward coffee date with a family friend will not only develop your social skills but will provide valuable networking that may expand further than you first thought. Take the opportunities that are provided to you – they may be more insightful than their face value and you will never regret putting yourself out there, even if it doesn’t pay off as quickly as you want.