I’m Irene, and I am a second-year Politics, Philosophy and Law student at King’s College London. I came to the UK to study law because, to me, the way the law of England – and the other common law systems, by extension – works, is fascinating. I come from Spain, where (arguably) law students essentially learn laws from a code in a textbook and then they show what they can remember in the final exams. However, to study the law of a system where the role of judges is so much more dynamic makes exploring the overarching legal concepts more interesting: as a law student in the UK, you must know the facts and use your common sense and your creativity to offer the best arguments in support of your client in a fictitious problem question, for example. More generally, I study law, among other reasons, not only because it is interesting, but also because it provides you with the tools to defend those who do not have a voice. I still am unsure whether I want to become a legal practitioner; however, I am most certain about my interest in social, economic and environmental justice issues in international politics, and one of my goals is to use the skills I acquire during my degree to pursue a career in an international organization or NGO.
For many people, a typical day as a law student here in London looks like this: a busy journey to university (I walk to class because I live close to King’s, which is next to the river Thames, but many of my peers take the tube every day), possibly one or two lectures given by a professor, and seminars, where we discuss the main ideas of the day’s lecture in a smaller and more interactive environment. In between classes or in the evening, there are always extra-curricular activities and opportunities, mainly fun or educational (or both!) events organized by student societies. What I love the most is that there is always something to do, somewhere to be, or someone interesting to meet.
I have been lucky when it comes to being inspired by lecturers; most of them have a unique point of view to offer about whatever they are teaching. European Law, Government and Law and Criminal Law are amongst my favourite subjects because the lecturers manage to incorporate a theoretical or philosophical discourse into the substance of the course. In other words, I like them because they make us think, and to do so, they show their opinions (some more subtly than others) to spark debate about, for example, migrant rights within the EU, the limits of parliamentary sovereignty in Westminster, or fair labelling, proportionality and freedom in the criminal system. This way of teaching makes us think about the material implications of our field of study in the real world, on the lives of real people. And for those of us who are interested in justice, it is a great way of learning.
I am from Spain, which since 2008 has been experiencing the global financial crisis in a particularly harmful way. Cuts in healthcare, education and pensions, as well as unprecedented unemployment, are a few of the consequences of the recession, which are present in the everyday lives of millions. In contrast to what is sometimes portrayed in (especially Spanish) media, poverty in Spain exists, and it affects the most vulnerable groups of society. Particularly, it affects millions of children: a UNICEF report established that one out of three children in Spain are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This is sometimes referred to as ‘the lost generation’, and it is still a salient social problem despite the recent economic growth.
There are currently many organizations – public and private, at national and EU level – offering aid programs, and there are other mechanisms in place to help alleviate the situation of poverty and social exclusion that a great part of our population experiences. However, this is far from satisfactory: there must be a structural response from the government to the decline in poverty reduction policies more generally, accompanied by a profound reflection – on the part of everyone – of what our priorities are, and how different they are from what they should be. Where do poverty reduction, universal access to quality education and healthcare and other indispensable social goods fit in our executive plans for the next decade? What comes first; economic growth, or equality, social justice and dignity for all?