Kriti Mahajan has always been interested in travelling and finding ways to improve global communities. This led her to The Australian National University (ANU), where she is currently in the final year of her Bachelor of Law (Hons) and Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) flexible double-degree.
While her time at the ANU College of Law has been filled with highlights, a unique and unexpected challenge change how she envisioned her ANU experience. With much of her 2020 overseas travel plans shelved due to the global pandemic, Kriti sought a way to pivot and make the most of the situation.
She was fortunate and resourceful enough to identify and apply for various virtual travel opportunities through opportunities not only at the ANU College of Law, but through other organisations around campus and Canberra.
Through these experiences, she gained valuable knowledge and different perspectives which eventually led to her being awarded the Frohlich World Bank Scholarship with the Integrity Vice-President. Valued at $30,000, the scholarship supports an ANU Bachelor of Laws (Hons) student to undertake a six-month internship with the Special Litigation Unit at the World Bank's headquarters in Washington DC, United States.
Currently overseas, Kriti reflects on her journey so far and shares some of the key moments of her time at the ANU College of Law that have shaped her outlook.
Why did you choose to do a double degree in Law (Hons) and Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at ANU?
I have always been interested in travel and diplomacy as a means to build more prosperous global communities. To serve as a good lawyer, I felt I should have a diversity of perspectives and this is why I chose ANU. It allowed me to combine Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics to get a well-rounded perspective. I also saw the University’s global focus as a major draw. I am interested in seeing the world and learning about different interpretations of law and politics from across the world. I felt that Law and PPE would give me options to travel and I have been fortunate enough to go to Myanmar with the support of the New Colombo Plan.
The double degree combination was also attractive and unique to ANU at that time. I wasn’t sure which exact career path I wanted to pursue but I was aiming for the international law and diplomacy fields which ANU had a great global standing with its highly inspiring teaching staff. PPE and Law gave me the flexibility to try new things and see what interested me, whilst having the focus to give me the skills needed for a great career in international law and diplomacy.
What challenges have you faced during your studies and how were you able to overcome them?
COVID and virtual learning has significantly impacted the majority of my studies. I had a lot of overseas study planned for 2020 including a significant scholarship to study in Washington through the Fund for American Studies (with a chance to intern at the White House) which I was unable to pursue due to the pandemic. However, I did not give up hope and applied for virtual travel opportunities and was fortunate enough to ‘travel overseas virtually’ twice through the New Colombo Plan.
I got to work in Indonesia virtually with the Indonesian National Commission for Women this year and the Association for Elections and Democracy last year. Although it was harder to learn Bahasa Indonesia without having local speakers to interact with, I was able to use Indonesian media, music and movies to learn the language. I even used Indonesian recipes to cook at home as part of my virtual cultural immersion.
I also worked on the ANU Law Reform and Social Justice (LRSJ) environmental law project virtually in collaboration with law students from the University of Hawaii and the University of Cebu (Philippines). Through this, I was able to virtually interact with American and Filipino students and got to experience how American and Filipino students view international law.
During the pandemic, I also managed to intern with the Solomon Islands High Commission where I helped the High Commission prepare a presentation for the Australian Government to consider the Solomon Islands in future Pacific COVID-19 Travel Bubbles. It taught me about the work of embassies in Australia and the critical role they play in a country’s diplomacy and I didn’t have to leave the country to gain this experience!
I have also been involved with ANU’s International Relations Society facilitating discussions with embassy and consulate staff from several nations such as Jordan and Britain which has helped me overcome not being able to interact with people from different countries and learn from their perspectives without leaving Canberra.
What are your most memorable experiences at ANU College of Law?
Working at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Office (DFAT) of Trade and Investment Law as part of the ANU Law internship program this year has been an unforgettable experience. I’ve gotten to research the World Trade Organisation with DFAT Staff both in Canberra and Qatar. It’s been especially memorable due to the opportunity to attend a private tour of Parliament for DFAT staff and present to senior DFAT staff with the support of my DFAT mentor Divya Kaliyaperumal.
Is there an ANU College of Law scholar who has inspired you during your studies and, if so, how?
I got the chance to learn from Associate Professor Jonathan Liljeblad as part of LRSJ and the International Law Clinic. He showed me how the tools we possess as law students and how I could use my legal skills in a social justice advocacy lens to work towards addressing unjust outcomes even as a student.
Associate Professor Esmé Shirlow also inspired me to pursue my international law specialisation.
What does being awarded the Frohlich World Bank Scholarship with the Integrity Vice-Presidency mean to you and what are you most looking forward to in Washington?
This is an incredible opportunity for me to see the inner workings of such a global institution that the World Bank is. I’m looking forward to soaking up all Washington has to offer from the Smithsonian museums to the public lectures hosted by think tanks across D.C. Working in forensic litigation with the Integrity Vice Presidency will be life changing not only from a professional or career development perspective but also moving to a new country will challenge me on a personal level and allow me to cultivate so many new experiences while learning from the best lawyers from across the globe at the World Bank.
As a final year student, what are your next steps, planned or aspired, as you head towards graduation?
After I graduate I aim to work in diplomacy and international law. I would like to be a lawyer at international development agencies such as the World Bank and the other United Nations organisations or as an advocate at an international judicial body such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. Ultimately, I would love to represent Australia either in a diplomatic capacity at a high commission overseas or as a lawyer part of DFAT or Australian Government Solicitors Office of International Law so that I can help shape and give voice to Australia’s policies on the international plane whilst travelling to new places.