Lisa Schmidt - Alumna Pursuing Her Passion for International Law
ISB alumna, Lisa Schmidt ('15), who completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in international law at Leiden University, is now pursuing a graduate diploma in law in the UK. Recently, she completed her internship at the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (UN-IRMCT). We are glad to be able to connect with her again and learn about her path to finding her passions and landing this coveted opportunity.
What were your favorite subjects/teachers at ISB?
I would have to say that my favorite subjects were Global Politics with Mr. Green and English Language and Literature with Mr. Bryant. My favorite teacher was and is Frau Bosquet, with whom I took German A Language and Literature.
What are some of your favorite memories from ISB?
The Tanzania CAS trip is on top of the list. The Duke of Edinburgh award hike trips I did with my group members Astrid, Lotte, Olga, and Silke is another top memory I will never forget. I sometimes get flashbacks of Sports Day, which was always a fun start to the summer. And of course, the last day of school where we all dressed up before our IB exams is an unforgettable memory.
When you graduated from ISB, what career did you want to pursue?
I was always really interested in politics and was torn between studying Politics, International Relations, or Law at university. Since I took Global Politics during my IB years and was involved with our MUN, I had a taste of politics and international relations. However, studying law was something foreign to me and I wasn’t 100% sure at the age of 18. I think no one was 100% sure at that time. But I envisaged having a career in an international organization and working under the umbrella of international politics, international relations, and international law. Such career paths would entail becoming a policy advisor, or legal advisor at an international organization. Ultimately, my dream has always been to become an international lawyer, or to work within the field of international law, whether it be public or private. Especially for someone like me who has always been in an international setting, my career aspirations were always within an international realm.
What did you do after graduating from ISB?
After ISB, I started my BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences, majoring in International Law at Leiden University College in The Hague, the Netherlands. This was a three-year degree where I specialized in international law and minored in courses such as philosophy, history, gender studies, and anthropology. After my three years, I decided to continue with Leiden University, specifically Leiden Law School. I completed an LLM in Public International Law, with a specialization in International Humanitarian Law. I decided to stay in the Netherlands, specifically The Hague, as The Hague is known as the city of Peace and Justice and is the heart of international law. Leiden Law School is considered the best university to study public international law due to its proximity to The Hague, access to the vast institutions and professors who are or formerly were practitioners at those institutions. After my masters, I decided that I wanted to qualify as a lawyer. Although my LLM is a qualifying law degree, my BA was not, as I did not study the domestic law of a specific country. This is why I decided to pursue a Graduate Degree in Law, which I am currently doing, to allow me to qualify in the UK.
What career are you working in now?
I am currently still studying and pursuing a graduate degree in law, which is essentially a second degree (a qualifying law degree pursued after completing a bachelor in another subject). I decided to pursue this degree part-time and also distance learning to enable me to gain relevant work experience whilst studying. Until recently, I was interning at an international court, which would fall under the career path of international law, specifically international criminal and humanitarian law. Right now, I am trying to find more experience within this field and am expanding to gain experience from the private international law sector as well, which is more on the commercial side.
Could you tell us more about your work at the UN?
I was interning with the office of the prosecutor’s trial team, conducting the re-trial case of Stanisic v. Simatovic. As a legal intern, I was exposed to a lot of witness preparation work, specifically to prepare for the cross-examinations of defense witnesses. I conducted factual and legal research, drafted legal memoranda, analyzed, cite-checked, and reviewed witness testimonies, assisted with drafting the final trial brief, and attended court proceedings. The case is extremely complex, which required background knowledge of the overall conflict in the former Yugoslavia. At first, I struggled to understand the overall picture of the conflict, specifically, with the case that I was working on. However, over time, the pieces of the puzzle slowly started to come together, along with the experience and knowledge I was gaining from the internship. The UN-IRMCT (formerly, the ICTY) is a unique place to be in and having had the opportunity to experience how things were done from the inside, from the prosecutor's office, was very inspiring.
What are your future plans?
In the short run, I plan to gain as much work experience before commencing my journey in qualifying as a solicitor in the UK. I will continue seeking internship opportunities in The Hague, as there is an abundant amount of experience related to the fields of public international law in The Hague, including human rights law. I have an internship lined up later in the year at a US Law Firm so that I can gain some experience within the field of private international law. I would love to land a blue book traineeship at the European Union one day. In the long run, after qualifying and gaining work experience, I would love to work for an international organization or NGO such as the UN, or its ancillary organizations. I am very passionate about international criminal, humanitarian and human rights law, so I hope that I can return to this field after qualifying and earning relevant work experience.
Are there any words of inspiration that you would like to share with our current students?
If there is anything that I have learned since my time at ISB, it is that you don't have to have everything planned out perfectly for your future when you start university, or before you even attend university. Dreams and aspirations can guide you to find a subject that you are passionate about, but things change as you grow during your time in university. I started out wanting to study international relations and politics, and then found my passion for international law which I specialized in, and now am going a step 'backward' and getting a qualifying degree in law. There is no right or wrong path that you have to choose to get from point A to point B in terms of your career aspirations. It is never late to start a new degree, or to change paths, or to start something new. Don't stress and put too much emphasis on your future while you are at school, as things start to unravel with time and experience during university or even afterward, which will guide you to the right path.