From Switzerland to Singapore – The LL.M. Experience

The LL.M. programme at NUS Law is well-known for attracting students from all around the world. Two Swiss students, Andreas Blattmann and Bettina Diggelmann, from the 2013-14 LL.M. programme share their experiences in a candid interview.

Andreas Blattmann had been in practice for about eight years before enrolling in the NUS LL.M. programme. He started working as a law clerk to the judges at a district court in the province of Zurich upon completion of the Master of Laws degree from University of Zurich, and gained experience with different courts in the following years, including the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal. He also completed a Ph.D. and then went into private practice as an attorney-at-law while simultaneously served as a substitute judge. Bettina Diggelmann completed her Master of Laws at the University of Zurich and subsequently joined the district court of Meilen as a trainee. She subsequently joined a mid-size law firm in Zurich as an attorney where she worked mainly in litigation for almost two years before coming to Singapore. Andreas and Bettina are engaged to each other.

Why did you decide to come to NUS in Singapore from so faraway? Why not UK or USA?

Andreas: I chose Singapore for three key reasons. Firstly, Singapore signifies globalisation and the shift in economic power towards Asia. Secondly, I hoped to gain valuable cultural experience which would significantly broaden my horizons. Finally, I must admit that Singapore is an excellent place to explore Asia. The tropical climate of Southeast Asia might have played an important role too!

Bettina: The US would be equally far in distance, but much closer in terms of culture. The UK would have been too close in both senses. Singapore promised to be both an interesting place to live amidst exotic cultures and a hub to travel to the most amazing destinations all over Southeast Asia. Last but
not least, NUS was recommended to us by former LL.M. students as an excellent law school.

What subjects did you study at NUS? What were your impressions of some of the subjects? Any favourites?

Andreas: During the two semesters, I chose a few modules based on my specialisation back home and some out of general interest. I started with International Alternative Dispute Resolution, International Commercial Arbitration, and Public International Law. International ADR was excellent, a credit to Visiting Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow who is an outstanding international expert in the field. A special highlight was the East India module which did not only provide insights into the history of
Singapore and Southeast Asia in general but also allowed to draw comparisons with respect to today's multinational companies. In the second semester I took Freedom of Speech, Competition Policy, European Company Law, Mediation, and a directed research paper. Highlights were Freedom of Speech which was a truly comparative module, and Mediation which focused on the acquisition of key practice skills. Again, I was able to specialise in my fields of practice back home which makes the LL.M. even more valuable.

Bettina: I chose two groups of subjects: some that promised to be of concrete value for my work, and some I was interested in to broaden my horizon. The first group comprised International Commercial Arbitration, Mediation, Alternative Dispute Resolution, a directed research paper in dispute resolution design, European Company Law and European Law (yes, both not part of my curriculum in Zurich, but for obvious geographical reasons very valuable subjects). The second group consisted of The East India Company, Freedom of Speech, Public International Law and Human Rights in Asia. Based on content and teaching style, the Mediation workshop was my favourite - I am used to classrooms full of hundreds of passive students, and this was the complete opposite!

Did you make any friends here?

Andreas: This year at NUS exceeded all expectations. I have met so many lovely people from all over the world. Of course, it was a bit easier to get in touch with other LL.M. students. We had many BBQs and nights out and at the same time supported each other during long hours in the library. Nevertheless, I have met quite a few undergrads, too, who took me to local food courts or picnics. I found this was particularly valuable from a personal point of view since meeting local people gives you insights in the way of life in your host country.

Bettina: We were lucky to make many friends! I will always remember a glorious evening with five undergrads: they did not only take us to Jumbo Seafood at ECP to sample the famous chili crab, but also "made" us taste durian in Geylang. In general, our fellow LL.B. students from Singapore were extremely helpful, welcoming and interested. With my LL.M. colleagues, our activities ranged from a trip to Yogyakarta to an unexpectedly long hike through MacRitchie reservoir to many (many!) barbecues with Swiss cheese, Pakistani-marinated chicken and Japanese sake. I also hold dear memories of some of the most interesting conversations about South American economies, the legal system and morals in Pakistan and India, and the outsider view of the European continent.

What did you do for fun in Singapore or outside of Singapore?

Andreas: Singapore has, indeed, a lot to offer. We explored not only all these nice and old neighborhoods like Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India but also several national parks with their amazing wildlife and lush green. In a city, in which a new restaurant or bar opens every other week, you cannot get bored! And of course, Singapore is simply outstanding as a base to travel around Asia and places further away. As a European, you should take advantage of this place and travel to remote Indonesian islands or to Australia, both of which are often just too far away from home.

Bettina: Where shall I begin? Hiking in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir, cycling on Pulau Ubin, chilling on Tanjong Beach Sentosa, wandering through the various historic and modern areas of the city, the open air cinema on Marina Bay, enjoying outdoor theatre at Fort Canning Park ... and then there is travelling to China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia! I wish I could do it all over again!