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"It was difficult to see how sad some things can be, and the reality of life"

Raneem Salha

As part of my degree I selected the Clinical Legal Education (CLE) module as it offers a practical side of law. It gave me opportunities to volunteer with institutions that are concerned with access to justice and the barriers some people face because they cannot afford legal services.

I chose to help at Citizens Advice Brighton &Hove as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to specialise in. I was there to give information on services people could access about debt, or housing, or relationship breakdowns. For those who can’t access the internet to find out about their rights, this can be very beneficial. The point to understand is that the traditional legal mechanisms aren’t the only way to access justice.

It was difficult to see how sad some things can be, and the reality of life. A father came to see us who was looking forward to having an access day with his son, but he had no money for food. That was heartbreaking for me. We were able to give him a £20 food stamp for Sainsbury’s.

I also joined the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group, which helps refugees and foreign prisoners who have been indefinitely detained. I am half Lebanese and half Australian, and was living in Lebanon before I started my degree. So many Syrians were coming to Lebanon I witnessed at first-hand what happens to them. They don’t have a land to call their own any more, and because of their situation they get exploited and sex-trafficked. Seeing people actually going through these things has inspired me to do what I can to help.

The CLE module prompts you to realise that law isn’t just about working in a corporate world. You can work in your community, and give something back with the skills you learn as a lawyer. I think that’s very necessary, especially now with people associating lawyers with being the criminals themselves!

Although Sussex was not my first choice, I now think that there is no other university that I would have appreciated more. Being an international student, I hear about people with university experiences from Dubai, Australia, Lebanon…all over the world. I feel like Sussex, particularly studying law and international relations, is a great place because of the diversity on offer. I don’t mean just in the people around you, it’s also from the texts I’m encouraged to read. Other universities provide more mainstream outlooks on theories. But the voices that I am getting from my readings are also the marginalised ones.

I initially wanted to be a barrister. Now I would rather open up an institution that provides access to justice. Not that barristers can’t achieve justice through arguing for a cause. But institutions like Citizens Advice can give that to a wider range of people. When you’re a barrister it depends on whether someone can afford your services. But if you’re opening this kind of institution it doesn’t matter if they can afford it or not. You are there to help them.

I’m a person that believes every place has its benefits and its negatives because I come from a family that has experienced both. I’ve got my dad’s Middle Eastern traditions, while through my mum, who’s Australian, I understand the liberal conception of things. This has helped me understand the balance between what works and what doesn’t work in some countries. I would hope that Lebanon would grasp some of these liberal qualities for its government, but I do realise that these are completely different situations. We have bigger problems first to fixing the government. But knowing both sides can help me relate to a lot of people and understand what can be just right for each place.

I’d like to stay living in the UK, and maybe doing a Masters at Sussex if the course is right for me. I have loved being at Sussex. I don’t think I would have become the person that I am if I hadn’t been here. It’s not just the readings; I have to give it to the lecturers. They help you figure out what you want and I really appreciate that. In high school everyone said that when you get to uni you will feel like a number, but I never feel like that at Sussex. I have had all the support I need. I also love Brighton. It has the most beautiful beach, and it’s a beautiful place. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who feels they don’t fit it. My only complaint would be about the food in the UK.

This profile is part of our This Sussex Life series.

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 15 February 2019