McGill International Experience Award recipient Nigah Awj in Istanbul

Nigah Awj
Law student Nigah Awj presenting at the Public Health Conference in Istanbul.

Jake Heyka
Student Jake Heyka (right) was excited to meet the OECD’s Pascal Saint-Amans in Brazil.

Sydney Lang
Law student Sydney Lang went to Georgia to speak at a conference.

The Schull Yang International Experience Awards have allowed McGill Law students to travel to international conferences and to participate in life-changing human rights internships.

Last spring, Nigah Awj travelled to Istanbul to present her paper on the Right of a Child with disabilities to not be institutionalized. Vincent Marquis was in Perth, Australia, to showcase his work on human right to housing in contemporary art. In August, Jake Heyka’s trip to Brazil allowed him to present new OECD policy alongside some of the foremost tax policy makers in the world.

Memorable in their own right, these students’ experiences presenting their research were all the more exceptional that they got to live them as early as their BCL/LLB studies.

Since 2016, BCL/LLB students who get a paper accepted at a conference abroad can apply for a Research Travel Award of up to $2,000. The program has proved itself a most successful addition to the Schull Yang International Experience Awards.

Matthew Squire, who presented his work at the Australasian Society of Legal Philosophy annual conference in Auckland, New Zealand (“about as far away geographically as you can get from Montreal”!), said that the opportunity enabled him to get valuable feedback on his work.

“[My experience] allowed me to establish an international network of strong women studying and working in the field, and gain a better understanding of the diverse pathways available to me after graduation,” added law student Sydney Lang, for whom having spoken at the IntLawGrrls 10th Anniversary Conference in Georgia will have “a positive impact on the remainder of [my] career at McGill”.

The Schull Yang International Experience Awards were founded in 2013 through the generous support of McGill alumni Joseph Schull, BA’82, MA’85, and Anna Yang, BCL’88, LLB’88.

During their studies, they both benefited from financial support to study abroad. Their personal journeys inspired them to establish the McGill International Experience Awards (IEA), whose aim is to enrich students’ university experience by enabling them to participate in a global learning opportunity.

“McGill provided us with a great educational foundation and a passport to the world outside. We want to ensure that McGill can continue to provide such opportunities to many more students in perpetuity,” Yang told McGill.

In 2016-2017, 94 students from different Faculties received a total of $315,080 in funding for life-changing international experiences, ranging from international internships and clerkships, to entrance scholarships and doctoral fieldwork.

However diverse the research interests and travel destinations of the awardees were, there is a recurring theme in their accounts: their trips left them better equipped to build their future careers, whether they intend to practice law, or pursue an academic career. “It was undoubtedly a foundational experience for my engagement with the tax policy and my journey as a tax practitioner”, explained Heyka.

“[D]isseminating what I have learned about how lawyers in other jurisdictions deal with issues of adequate housing will be of invaluable assistance to Canadian jurists eager to craft a distinctively Canadian response to those same issues,” concluded Marquis. “I am convinced of the value of this opportunity not only for my own practice, but also for the state of legal research in Canada.”

By Karell Michaud