I thought the LLB was going to be easy. I was 25 when I made the decision to start my LLB with the University of London International Programmes in Sri Lanka. By this time I already had my Bachelor of Business and MBA. I was working full time as a teacher, an examiner for a local examination body and an entrepreneur. Surely it had to be easy for me, I thought, with my experience as a teacher and examiner.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Before I knew it was in the deep end of the pool without a life jacket. Not only did I realize that studying law required an entire different mindset to studying management, I also realized it demanded self-discipline, commitment and most of all; time. As a management student and teacher I was used to short notes, video clips, calculations, challenging theory, bypassing text books, and last minute studying. None of those was going to work with a LLB. LLB required sitting down and reading, memorizing, thinking and then some more reading.
I began to doubt my teaching skills. I knew how to guide my students, help them find their learning style but I was just not getting mine. I learned that a good teacher doesn’t always become a good student. In fact I was a horrible student. I over estimated myself and kept things till the last minute. My time management was poor, my notes were incomplete and I was too tired from work to pay attention in class. Most of all I was struggling to find time to study. For the first time in my life I was a part time student and that was tough. I had long working days and I was too tired at the end of the day to study. I began valuing time like I had never done before. I envied full time students who had time to read cases and research. I found myself waking up early to squeeze an hour of studying before work and I read examiner reports on my computer when I took breaks at work.
I thought of quitting so many times. I had a lot on my plate. My exams and the exams of my students fell on the same week. There were only a couple of months left for the exam and I didn’t know much. Taking time off work was not an option because that would be passing my exams at the cost of my students’. I was stressed and panicking. I had begun to love law. Contract law was my favorite. I loved being able to solve problem questions, thinking like a lawyer and advising clients. It didn’t seem fair to not give it all I had, which is exactly what I did.
I stepped up, made study schedules, organized all my study materials, read and re read cases and text books, answered questions and looked for tips on examiner reports. My social life became nonexistent and my work out schedule suffered. In the last couple of months, I went from not knowing much to being confident, knowing my case and legal reasoning. In the end I got through all my first year subjects, not as well as I would have liked but I knew I did the best in the circumstances. Passing this exam meant more to me than all the other exams I’ve passed before because I knew how close to quitting I have come and I knew the personal sacrifices I had to make.
But my struggles are not merely personal. There are many fellow UOL students who have to balance studying with work and personal responsibilities. There are so many of us who have to beat time, make personal sacrifices, come close to quitting and yet manage not to lose sight of our goals. It may not be a smooth ride, but every one of us who haven’t quit yet is a winner.
Sandarenu is studying our Bachelor of Laws (LLB) by distance learning in Sri Lanka.