Tag Archives: law

One Final Down..

Can we all just agree that math doesn’t belong in law school? There is a reason we’re all law students and not engineers. (Okay, some engineers do go to law school, but they’re all going to be patent lawyers and are their own, odd breed.)

For the rest of us….math is just torture. My final today had math on it. It was a multiple choice exam and I’d faithfully plug the equation into my calculator and get an answer that did not resemble any of the options. 

Which is basically what I spent 2.5 hours doing. 

But at least I had a vague understanding of what was going on. I exited the final and asked someone who took it with me how he thought he did with the equations. He looked startled and went, “What equations?!”


Pizza and Beer

Most professors bring donuts to the last day of class.

My Public Sector Labor Law professor brought pizza and beer. I guess when you are 69 you just do what you like. 

“Do what you like” actually sounds like a good description for the class overall. Our last writing assignment was to write a paper and “pick what you feel the right answer is and then work backwards. No need to cite any law or anything” was all the direction we got. 

At least I got dinner out of it.


Killing Perfectionism

I sort of tumble through Tuesdays as a general rule of thumb but today felt particularly bad. I actually did the readings for my first class but when the professor called on me, I hadn’t a clue what the answer was. Unfortunately, it proved to be a rather vital point so he pointed at me every time it came up for the rest of class. 

I had about an hour till my second class and I planned to read for it beforehand. But turns out I left my textbook at home. And as it happens, this professor cold calls so I had to own up to not doing the reading so I wouldn’t get called on. It is quite demoralizing to admit to someone that even though you’ve had an entire week to do the readings, you didn’t. 

Then my third class. I did the reading. It didn’t matter; I barely understand a word of Immigration Law. 

And then finally my fourth class, where I don’t have the textbook yet so I didn’t read for it. 

It doesn’t sound too bad listing it like that. But when you add in trying to prep for discussion groups tomorrow and wrapping up a project for my Foundation job and the guilty knowledge that final edits on my law review article are due and, oh, any other number of e-mails and projects slipping out of my grasp….it feels exhausting. 

And I am reminded that every semester I tell myself I won’t listen to the perfectionist in my head. I will do what I can and make the best of how it turns out. But it still stings. I want to do it all. I want to be perfectly prepared for class. I want As. I want to turn in perfect work assignments and spout wisdom to my students and somehow maintain a social life and be a good big sister while I’m at it. 

And I just can’t. I need to intentionally give up my expectations. Physically set them aside and say ‘no.’ So I do. And once I do I think I’m done for good. But no, it sneaks back. Again and again and again. The pressure to Do Better. To be perfect. 

And then I go and forget my textbook at home. 

I don’t know what this semester will bring. I hoped it would be less than last year. From a pure “listing” of things, it is less. But being a 3L comes with new types of responsibility. (If I’m even a 3L, as Thailand hasn’t sent my official transcript to the law school yet so as far as any formal records show, I’m a semester behind and still a 2L…but that’s a rant for another day.) 

I know there is an entire spiritual element missing from this post. God pours many blessings into my life. And sometimes I do recognize and appreciate that fact. But if I’m honest, perfectionism hurts me in my spiritual journey as much as anywhere. I don’t live up to the goals I set for myself. I don’t read the Bible or pray nearly as much as I should. And so I just let that weigh on me, yet another “extra” that doesn’t get accomplished. 

It isn’t so much a battle with perfectionism as a war. Some battles perfectionism wins. Some I win. And some days, like today, it ends in a draw because I’m too tired and confused to process anything. 


Watching Oral Arguments

One of the former interns at the Foundation where I work swung by today to look up some paperwork. She is also a 3L and her article is also getting published by the Wisconsin Law Review this semester. She took over for me as president at the Federalist Society. We have a lot in common. 

Our boss (former boss, in her case) recently did an oral argument before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and someone in the office tipped us off that we could watch it on WisconsinEye. So we did. It was quite eye-opening. To be perfectly blunt, we were both shocked at how poorly some of the oral arguments went. (Not our boss, of course. He was great.) But some of the other presenters routinely interrupted the justices, didn’t know the answer to basic questions, or took a condescending tone when explaining the law. 

It was a very crystallizing moment for me. Not just because my friend and I realized ‘hey, even we could do that!’ But sitting there, talking to my friend about our upcoming publications, watching an oral argument about a brief we both helped write, I realized…I finally feel like a 3L. It isn’t that I’m a full-fledged attorney yet. But in a year I will be. 

Maybe someday my friend and I will argue before the Wisconsin Supreme Court together. Or even sit on the court. Or maybe we will go our opposite ways and totally lose contact. But for a moment, I did not feel like we were watching as clueless students, only half sure of what was going on. We watched as colleagues, knowledgeable and passionate about the law, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of our boss’s presentation. (I mean, what weaknesses? There were no weaknesses.) And I am looking forward to more of that. I realized…

There is a light at the end of this law school tunnel! 


Remembering I’m an Extrovet

Yesterday, my Mom kindly consented to join me at an AFP event and we headed into Milwaukee. I almost didn’t go. But I RSVPed and felt somewhat obliged to attend and there would be food.

I walked through the doors at the event, looked around the room, and saw people I knew. Moreover, people I liked. Former co-workers, bosses, and mentors. People I spent years fighting alongside. People I only know from Facebook. People I met once years ago. People I wanted to know. The AFP, grassroots world. In the flesh. 

I guess I just didn’t realize how much I missed that world. 

It was like a light flickered on in my head. ‘I know this situation. I am trained for this situation. I can go work the room. I can catch up on all the changes. Network.’

I often feel displaced in law school, to say nothing of the five months I spent in Thailand. But this was the opposite feeling of displacement. It was belonging. 

And I also realized, while I miss the people, I don’t necessarily miss the job. That is, given the chance to go back to my old position, I probably wouldn’t. I like the law. I like the extra layer of understanding I possess when I talk about policies impacting our state. 

I’m not sure where that leaves me, except with a strong reminder that I’m still becoming. No matter how stressful this past year, no matter how stressful the coming one, it is not the last chapter. I’ve got people rooting for me. People who trained me, mentored me, and pushed me forward. And right now a new batch of people train, mentor, and push me. But that doesn’t mean the last bunch forgot about me. They’re still my people. I’m just also getting more people. 

More than anything, the evening reminded me that I’m an extrovert and need to spend more time with people who fill me up. 

Which leads me to a major thank you to my introverted mother for sticking around much later than she wanted while I caught up with people. She also had to deal with my giddy rambling on the drive back. My Mom is the real MVP.


Finals: AKA What Is Going ON???

Honestly, I do not know how anyone manages to graduate from Thammasat University. I am told the other departments do not run as haphazardly as the legal department. But really, I don’t know how any of the students keep track of anything. My entire finals experience has been nothing but chaos! 

I am taking 5 classes. Allow me to briefly summarize my experiences: 

Class 1: The professor announces that any student who wishes to write a paper instead of taking the final may do so. I tell him I want to write a paper; we select a topic; I do initial research. A month before the final, I check in to ask if he wants an outline or draft before I turn in my final work. He looks surprised and informs me he did not realize I was writing a paper; no one is writing a paper; I should just take the final instead. I protest. He insists. I end up taking the final. 

Class 2: The professor gives out a syllabus at the beginning of class and another one a few weeks later when she makes some scheduling changes. Both clearly state: midterm = 50% of the grade, paper = 40%, final = 10%. As I review for the upcoming final, it occurs to me we never did write a paper. I ask my classmate. She says the final is worth 30% of our grade. I ask what happened to the remaining 20%. She sort of shrugs and after digging through my notes I see we had an in-class presentation. Apparently that was worth 20%. 

Class 3: The professor strolls into class and inquires how the take-home final is going. We all stare at him blankly. Take-home final? Now he looks surprised. Did the office not send out the final like he asked? No, no the office did not. Oh, well, if one student will provide their e-mail, he will send the final to that student and the student can distribute it to everyone else. Except guess whose e-mail that student does not have? Mine. I managed to get a grainy picture of the final from someone who took a shot of it from their phone. Exactly how we turn in the final once we finish remains unclear. Apparently the office will contact us.

Class 4: The office sends out a list of in-class finals with rooms and times. I ask my classmate how she is studying for it since we’ve had at least 6 different professors for this class. She says only one professor is testing us and it is a take-home exam. I say it is not a take-home exam; the office clearly put it on the list of in-class finals. She says the professor changed his mind. I flip through my notes. Sure enough, he told us a take-home. I ask where we get the take-home. She says he hasn’t given it to us yet. I ask when we should expect it. She doesn’t know. I ask another classmate. She thinks we might receive it Monday. Maybe Tuesday. It will be due in June. When in June? Uncertain. 

Class 5: I don’t know how to study for this final. Because the office kept scheduling another class at the same time, I only attended about half the courses we are being tested on. The professor responded to my e-mail for more information brusquely and basically told me her portion of teaching is done. I assume this means I can expect no further clarification. If I had a friend in this class, I could ask for notes. But far from being friendly, the students did their best to ostracize me. [And if you think I am being paranoid, allow me to inform you they actually switched their conversations from English to Thai when I walked by trying to find a discussion group to join because my group members all bailed. The professor saw and yelled at them and they designated one person to converse with me in English while they continued their conversation in Thai. My designated conversation partner spent the entire time looking miserable.]

In summary, I am a law student who might fail a freshman level course because I cannot figure out how any of this works.


The Little Things

My first two months living abroad were an exercise in powerlessness. By powerlessness, I mean the feeling of “I don’t know what to do.” Everything around me came with a learning curve. Transportation, food, working the air conditioning…literally all of it took effort. But over time, I mastered them. And then I moved on to the next set of challenges: developing a social life. It took a while. Again, though, I eventually made friends and found a church and braved the masses playing tourist. The last two months I feel like I really hit my swing.

But there are days like today when the last four months rewind and I feel powerless again.  When that happens, I’m generally not in a situation where you would expect powerlessness. I did not lose my debit card or miss my bus stop and end up on the outskirts of Bangkok again. I am not battling with hundreds of people to get my visa renewed. No, I feel powerless because all the little things keep adding up and I finally crack. 

Little things like:

  • My bus to school costs 14 baht instead of 13 baht. And I do not know why. Did it change permanently? Is it because I’m riding on a Thursday? Or because I’m riding ten minutes later than I normally do? Was I just taken advantage of? It is the same distance. The same bus. The same commuters. But some days I’m charged 13 baht and some days 14 and sometimes even 15. And I cannot find the pattern, the rhyme or reason. A tiny thing in the big picture, but then…
  • My professor absent-mindedly starts speaking Thai, or shows a slide in Thai, or tells us “since you all took Thai Civil Procedure, I will not spend any time on this part.” But of course I have not taken Thai Civil Procedure. I do not know Thai. I feel like I am missing something critical. Maybe a classmate sees my confused face and leans over to translate. Maybe the professor apologizes and explains to me. Or maybe I am just left in the dark. A little thing, but for a few moments I feel helpless and like I am missing something critical. I feel like a failure for not grasping the subject. 
  • My school cancels class. Again. Or schedules a make-up class with less than 24 hours notice. Suddenly, I’m scrambling to remember what is going on and where I am supposed to be. Chances are I have a class conflict. Then I’m wondering which course I should attend and if someone will grab notes for me in the other one. I feel like a terrible student but I do not know what to do. I cannot be in two places at once. I haven’t been to Fundamental Rights in 5 weeks. I’m a failure. 
  • The convenience store lacks whatever I am looking for. I cannot find the pattern for when they carry certain things and when they don’t. Some days the store overflows with food. Some days the shelves look bare. Some days I can find cake; some days they carry Oreos. But then the next month they do not carry either. Such a weird thing to leave me feeling unstable, but I do feel unstable. I am used to stores running out, but I am not used to stores not quickly replenishing their stock when they do. Or, you know, not ever carrying that thing again. Imagine a Wal Greens where the snack options randomly disappear and reappear every few months and only endless rows of dried seaweed and ramen stayed the same. But you have no explanation for why. It just is.

In the big scheme of things, none of these things matter much. An additional class, an extra baht, one less day with chips. But added together, these little moments of powerlessness add up. I cannot find the pattern. I cannot accomplish the thing. Panic sets in. And even though it is just momentary panic, add enough of them together and I feel a bit like a pin ball machine. 

Then add extreme heat, humidity, millions of other humans, and taxi drivers with a perchance for charging you triple the actual price and I start thinking nostalgically of the misery that was my schedule last semester. 

My friend, Ginnie, sent me a quote from a book she is reading and I love the way it sums up the emotion (albeit of Vietnam, not Thailand specifically): 

“Because life in Vietnam is one body-crushing, must-do, crowd-throbbing, mind-heavy, event after another. It takes all my energy just to react.” Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

All my energy just to react. Welcome to life abroad in Asia.