Interview: Sanya Darakhshan Kishwar (Masters in General laws, Pennsylvania State University)
Sanya Darakhshan Kishwar is an enthusiast in the field of Human Rights. She completed her Masters in Law from Pennsylvania State University, USA and is perusing LL.M. in International Human Rights from University of Leeds. She has keen interest in the field of gender justice and has been a member of the Gender Sensitization and Equal Opportunity Cell in her undergraduate law school. She completed her Bachelors in Law with an integrated Bachelors in Science and Honours in Business Law with CGPA of 9.48. At Pennsylvania State University, her area of focus was International Law, Human Rights and International Commercial Arbitration. She was also an Oralist in the team that won the 26th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna.
We managed her to ask her following questions:
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Greetings to everyone! Hope you all are doing well. I am happy to have been invited to share my experience with prospective LL.M. candidates. For an introduction, I mention my name and qualifications.
I am Sanya Darakhshan Kishwar and I completed my integrated B.Sc. LL.B. (Business Law Honours) from Central University of South Bihar, Gaya (2013-18). I did my Masters in General laws from the Pennsylvania State University, USA (2018-19) and am currently pursuing my Maters with specialisation in International Human Rights Law from the University of Leeds, UK (2019-20).
What motivated you to pursue this field?
My paternal grandfather is an advocate and he practices in the District Court, Gaya. I did not have an aim to pursue field of law but law was the most viable option after my plan for engineering crashed because I had my grandfather as my personal tutor (I prefer to be honest here).
What do you think were the biggest hurdles and challenges in the early days of your career? How did you deal with them?
Speaking of a career, I would not say, I have one. I would, however, point out basic tips that undergraduates should keep in mind so that it is more feasible for them to get a job when they pass out.
a. Focus on internships, try to have internship experiences in courts, law firms and advocate chambers.
b. Participate in extra-curricular activities. These help you build your contacts.
c. Always aim at learning professionalism at an early stage of your undergraduate. This will help you to learn basic skills of drafting professional emails, cover letters etc.
d. Learn how to grab opportunities.
When and how did you decide to pursue masters? Was it a professional requirement or an endeavour out of academic interests?
I always had it clear since the very beginning that I have to go for academics and for that, PhD is what I have to finally pursue, so Masters was a prerequisite, I would say. It is certainly my academic intertest to specialise in the field of human rights but the ultimate goal is to be a faculty in law, so, I would also say that this is a professional requirement as well for a profession I look forward to.
How should one decide while applying for Masters that which Universities should be applied for?
This will depend on the branch you want to pursue Masters in. Speaking of which, there is a list of universities where they are placed according to the rank that they hold. You can filter the list to find which University hold what rank in the field that you want to pursue your Maters in. Navigate to the website of the University and you will get the details, have a look at the brochure to get an idea of the course structure. You will also have to keep in mind the fee structure and the list of documents that will be required.
For Masters in Law, specifically, try to apply in universities that focus on research (e.g., Russell Group Universities). Have a look at the programme that you are choosing and decide which University would be best. You can also decide this by having a look at the list of Professors in that University and the works that they have published.
To what all scholarship programmes one can apply for?
The University will have a list of all the internal and external scholarships that one could apply for. While some of them might have a separate application, you will be considered for some of the university funded scholarships automatically, without separate application. The details will be mentioned in the Funding page of the programme. Common scholarships that you can apply to are Fulbright and Commonwealth (Masters). Always keep a track of the deadline.
Should one have good research paper writing skills if they want to go for Masters in foreign universities? How can we improve it?
I would say, yes, definitely. The curriculum in most foreign university is assessment based which includes writing essays with referencing. So, yes, definitely, you will need to have a good research paper writing skill.
To improve that, try taking part in essay writing competitions and get papers published in highly reputed journals. Try to co-author with faculties because that will help you produce a piece of good research. Learn this fact that plagiarism is an academic offence and know that when you research, you need to know how to paraphrase and summarize. Direct and indirect, both forms of plagiarism violate the academic code of ethics. Focus more on sources like books and articles in academic journals than secondary sources (websites, blogs).
When we talk about pursuing interests in Human Rights, what kind of internships will be helpful?
Internships in NGOs, National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, internship under human rights activists, universities that offer internships etc.
What honours subject do you suggest one can take if human rights is not available as Honours in the University and one wants to pursue further career in it?
I had faced this. I did not have an option to chose an Honours. We were all having Business Law Honours, which is so distinct from what I pursue now. So, basically, if you have options, choose your Honours papers that would help further to relate it with human rights, e.g. Constitutional law, Criminal justice etc.
Do you think there were some stigmas attached with this profession when you decided to go for law? How did you combat those?
I would not say stigma but yes, people definitely raise an eyebrow when I tell them that I would be pursuing a career in academics because law means litigation for most of the laymen, even now. Besides that, I focus on issues related to women and that is a stigma, especially when we talk of topics such as sexual offences. Just one thing: be confident. The only way to combat the stigma. This confidence will come from in depth research because when you know your topic well, you will know how to handle uncomfortable questions as well.
What would be your advice to our budding lawyers?
The fraternity we belong to attaches to itself huge stress and with the cut-throat competition, it gets even more stressful. I know, sometimes it does feel like giving up, but that is exactly the time when you need to acknowledge the fact that self-care is the key to success. A successful lawyer does not mean a person sitting in a closed room with books all around, no! Being harsh on oneself might lead to success but you will be torn enough on the inside that you would in no way be able to enjoy that success. This is the one advice I would give because mental health is one of the topics we avoid talking about.
The interview was submitted by Nikhil Mishra.