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School of Law

A second “Parisian” semester comes to an end…

Explore Nikoleta Konstantellou's second blog post as she reflects on the challenges, personal growth, and valuable experiences of being a double degree student in Paris.

A student standing in front of the Sorbonne

To follow up with an update to my most recent blog post regarding the Parisian law school experience here at Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne as a Queen Mary and Sorbonne double degree law student, I am more than happy to share a closeup of the final half round of this intense and rewarding academic year. Since I started again in January of this year, I can say the second semester was full of learning curves, motivation to do better academically, professional growth and lastly the appreciation of how supportive a close friend group can be. Continuing ahead with a more specialised curriculum in some classes I already took in the first semester, some new ones were added, such as family law and fundamental rights and individual freedoms. Switching classes up gave me a new perspective on some new legal topics that are truly intriguing, such as the freedom of expression, the challenges of a divorce and the current balance of power in the French executive branch, as well as its intricate interaction with the legislative and the judicial one. 

The Association des Juristes Franco-Britannique (AJFB) also played a key role in providing professional development and networking opportunities to double degree bilingual students. The annual AJFB dinner for instance, which I had the pleasure to attend, allowed me to meet reputable professors in some areas of law that interest me, as well as students from different universities in Paris. This allowed me to have one-on-one conversations with experienced professionals in the field of energy, corporate law and arbitration. Getting advice from a qualified lawyer in the field is indeed more valuable than reading an article or gaining a superficial picture of the main activities, tendencies and updates in a certain legal sector. 

Another highlight of this semester has definitely been the Strasbourg trip organised by the double degree in French and Spanish Law Student Association, also known as AJPSC (Association des Juristes Panthéon-Sorbonne/Complutense). The itinerary for this trip was incredible, including guided visits and meetings at the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Human Rights. As a Greek national, after having studied in the UK and in France, those visits were of particular importance to me, giving the multifaceted political challenges Europe is facing in our time. 

Lit Eiffel Tower in the evening with a blue sky

On another note, in the centre of activities and organisation for this committee this year, was the final round of the ORAS! Mooting competition, a challenge any bi-juridical double law degree student would find most stimulating. One reason - it treats problem questions from both jurisdictions, alternating from the internal round all the way to the final. The final round for the candidates was held at the prestigious facilities of the Maison du Barreau. As the first laureate of this competition in my first year of university, it was particularly nostalgic for me to watch the candidates plead, as a member of the audience. I felt so proud I am part of such a strong academic cohort with ambitious students and was in full admiration of the younger representatives of the Queen Mary/Sorbonne degree, seeing the intense preparation and commitment they put in this competition. Simultaneously, the event presented the perfect context to meet and connect with other law students on a double LLB course in both England and France.  

Students in front of the Pantheon Sorbonne University columns

On another note, the second semester classes here in Paris that were hit by the instability of the protests reminded me how valuable resilience is. Paris is so politically active, due to its diverse population and its unique nature as the French capital, naturally making it the centre of the French internal political sphere. Without a shadow of a doubt the ongoing protests made it a bit difficult to know whether class is online and when it is in person, due to frequent public transport strikes. This lack of stability in class schedules coupled with the workload was a tricky challenge to tackle. The academic pressure in a Parisian law school is real. Maintaining a good level of work and preparation across all 6 of your modules is key. Not only do you have to be on the top of your game in terms of organising and processing information, but you also need to manage your time in the most efficient manner, balancing your lecture attendance, tutorial preparation, as well as taking care of your body both mentally and physically. Something that motivates students to not neglect such an important task is the bonus system. Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne operates on a system where it is possible to take up sports or language classes and receive grades, accordingly, thus boosting your overall performance. For people who might not have done well in certain exams, the French system -revealing its rigorous character and high evaluative standards- gives the opportunity to resist certain subjects, thus giving a second chance to students to get things right and improve on their exam performance. 

However, studying and working closely alongside some of my closest friends is what at the end of the day made the experience a thousand times easier. This included native French students sharing their impressively detailed class notes, all the way to study groups and collective preparation of work for tutorials. From sitting right next to each other in class, eating together, exploring Paris together, being surrounded by such supportive people who know they are on the same boat as you, is one of the things I am most grateful for. I cannot even begin to imagine where I would be without my closest friends in the double degree, which is no surprise considering that we are a tight-knit cohort of around 30 students. 

Students sitting in the courtyard of Pantheon Sorbonne University in Paris. Sunset in the background

To end this blogpost on a reflective note, I have come to understand on a profound level that the more we are exposed to rigorous academic environments and challenges, other tasks that will follow up later in our adult professional life will seem to be more manageable. By challenging ourselves, we cultivate skills, grow academically, professionally and most notably personally, preparing ourselves to enter the professional scene - legal or nonlegal - in a dynamic and promising way. 



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