Following more than six months of hard work and planning, ELSA Kent successfully hosted its second ELSA Summer Law School on Migration Law between the 17th and 24th June. The week concluded an extremely successful year for ELSA Kent, and continued on an annual event for our Local Group, which we look forward to seeing future committees carry on for years to come.
Although it was a lot of tough work, the new friendships and experiences created through the SELS made it all worth it. Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges faced by the OC during the planning stages for the event was actually in selecting the successful participants for the week, as application numbers almost trebled the number of spaces available. However, the active engagement, participation and eagerness of those in attendance demonstrated to us that we had made the right decision, and so we were extremely happy to welcome our wonderful participants, who travelled from fourteen different countries, with one travelling to us all the way from India.
The organising of such a significant project requires a large amount of time and commitment from all committee members. Our main aim was to ensure that participants felt that they had a valuable time, whether that be through learning something completely new on the topic of migration law, or by extensively developing their existing knowledge. We worked tirelessly to achieve this goal, starting with the organiser of the academic programme who provided a draft, establishing prospective speakers for the week. We found that having a draft document to work with, which outlined the optimal timings of speakers for the week, was invaluable. Having this document aided us in arranging many other aspects of the SELS, such as the social programme, finance, and logistics.
A top tip for any group looking to organise their own SELS is to be organised and prompt in contacting speakers for the week – don’t worry about sending invites too early, create your list of speakers ASAP and send invites at the beginning of the academic year, if possible. Don’t be disheartened if it seems that speakers aren’t interested due to a lack of replies, there will be those who are very keen to contribute their knowledge and they will eventually get back to you, even if they need a prompt or two! It is always expected that a large number of speakers will be unable to attend the SELS due to other work commitments throughout the busy summer month, and so we braced ourselves for rejections to our invitations. Despite not all invitees being able to attend, we were exceptionally happy with the diverse mix of academics that we were able to welcome during the week, each of which we made sure had a rich academic background relating to migration law.
Looking at last year’s programme for inspiration, it was clear that some of the best received lectures were those that included interactive components. One of the standout sessions was the advocacy workshop conducted by Kent Law Clinic’s Immigration and Asylum advisor and researcher, Richard Warren. We were happy to invite Richard again this year, who engaged the participants by dividing them into groups to discuss and argue a topical refugee case. Participants also thoroughly enjoyed the session hosted by Professor Richard Whitman, the head of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, who delivered a political perspective of migration, focusing on the controversial topic of Brexit.
As well as having academics speak to our students, we felt it was important to include workshops and lectures from barristers and judges, as well as NGO’s with practical experience of migration issues, such as dealing with refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons. We were pleased to secure NGO speakers such as Rita Chadha (Migrant Rights Network) and Chris Nash (Director and Co-Founder of the European Network on Statelessness) alongside Hugo Storey, an experienced Upper Tribunal Judge in the Immigration and Asylum chamber, and Franck Magennis, an immigration barrister from Garden Court Chambers.
Although the main goal of the week was to provide a valuable learning experience for the students, anyone and everyone who has had the pleasure of interacting within ELSA knows that our unofficial motto is to ‘work hard, play harder’. With that in mind, each evening in the week was assigned its own social aspect, ranging from clubbing, to karaoke, to a movie night. The social programme enabled the participants to bond with each other, providing them with the opportunity to get to know and learn about other cultures and gel overall as a group. The games night hosted at the beginning of the week meant that participants were able to gain confidence around each other and bond in a mellow, relaxed environment, which received an abundance of positive feedback. One of the standout nights, however, was our Karaoke night, where participants sang and laughed (mostly at James Whitehead’s rendition of ‘Phantom of the Opera’) the night away. Alongside these social evenings, we also introduced the students to a taste of British living, taking them to a local beach for the best doughnuts England has to offer and to the White Cliffs of Dover for a hike along the coast. The feedback received from the participants was overwhelmingly positive, and we’re so pleased to have provided them with a valuable, educational week, where lifelong friends were made.
I am incredibly proud of my fellow OC members for the enthusiasm, creativity and dedication that they demonstrated in putting the week together. Having an OC of three, rather than ten, made the six months of preparation in the lead up to the event extremely difficult. However, the trust and reliance that was placed in each other, and the willingness of all parties to contribute in multiple aspects of organisation, rather than solely in their assigned role, truly paid off. This event enabled our friendships to grow enormously as we gained an abundance of new skills and made incredible memories along the way. This year’s SELS meant an unbelievable amount to all of us, forming one of the most memorable parts of our university experience.
Overall, ELSA Kent are proud to have successfully organised the second ELSA Summer Law School on Migration Law and we hope that all participants enjoyed their week, both academically and socially.
Sarah Mullane is a recent LLB graduate from University of Kent and served as the Secretary General of ELSA Kent and the VP for Logistics for the Summer School during her final year of Undergraduate study. Sarah is taking a year out of education to pursue employment in investment management before commencing her Masters in International Commercial Law at the University of Bristol in 2019.