Paola Bruni (MSc 2017-2018) remembers her time at the LAC

paola bruni

I studied the MSc in Latin American Studies at the Latin American Centre (LAC) and graduated in 2018. My time at Oxford was one of the most enriching experiences of my life thus far. I applied to the LAC during my third year of Law undergraduate studies. I had always been keen on learning about Latin America in greater depth as I am originally from Venezuela but had never studied it in an academic sense. This program seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn more about the region.

Having come from a purely legal background and starting at the LAC soon after turning 21, meant I had some catching up to do. My classmates were some of the most accomplished individuals I had met, many had worked in embassies, the OAS and other renowned international organisations before coming to Oxford. It felt like I was learning something new with every conversation. My professors were top experts in their fields, some of whose research I had come across before starting the programme.

During my time at Oxford I had the opportunity to learn both inside and outside of the classroom. In class, I focussed on comparative politics and history. The programme is truly multidisciplinary, so it allows you to focus on those areas you are interested in. I focused my dissertation on international law, more specifically, transitional justice. Outside of class, I had the opportunity to attend events at the LAC, the Oxford Union and the Oxford University Law Society. Having one-on-one conversations during “Brunch with the Ambassadors” bi-weekly and meeting a number of former Latin American presidents are just some of the many highlights of my time at the Latin American Centre.

The overall University experience is a unique one, Oxford is filled with quirks and traditions that make it distinctive. To start off, you live in a “college”, mine was St Hugh’s College. These are not your standard student accommodation; they are communities of which you are a part of, they have student self-governing bodies and act as social centres. Academic terms have names - Michaelmas, Hillary and Trinity, each lasting a period of eight weeks. At Oxford you don’t go to parties, you go to “bops”; you don’t enrol, you “matriculate” and you don’t take a year out, you “rusticate”. These are just some of the many words you become familiar with as an Oxford student. In college you have “formal hall”, routine dinners where Latin prayers are recited. Once finals come around, you wear a “subfusc” with a carnation representing your progress through exams. White for your first exam, pink for the middle ones, and red for the last. When you come out of your last exam you get “trashed” with foam and glitter before jumping in a river. These are just a few of many traditions that make going to Oxford a truly unique experience.

In terms of career, immediately after my finals, I secured a position at Dentons, a leading global law firm with a large presence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, I took some time off after graduation to travel and studied independently for the New York Bar Law exam with a view to dual-qualification. I am currently being sponsored by Dentons to undertake the Legal Practice Course, the last academic stage of UK legal education before I start training with the firm in August 2020.

The LAC is a small department in which students and professors integrate into a tight-knit community. The memories and friends I made during this time are enough to last a lifetime. I am very grateful for the opportunities studying at Oxford and specifically the LAC have given me. I will always remember my time at the LAC fondly.