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Peppermint - Bita Mahani

By Callum Florance

Peppermint is a Peppercorn series where we interview and learn more about ANU law students and beyond.

A youth advocate from the sunny Gold Coast, currently doing an amazing job as the Vice-President (Social Justice) for the ANU Law Students' Society. Our interviewee gives some great advice for combatting imposter syndrome, emphasises the need for self-care to succeed at law school, and recommends more practical experience in law courses.

For this edition of Peppermint, we interview ANU Laws/IR student Bita Mahani.

What degree are you enrolled in?

Bachelor of Laws (Honours) / Bachelor of International Relations (Persian Minor)

What was your background prior to enrolling at ANU?

I grew up on the sunny Gold Coast before enrolling at ANU, and my experience prior to moving down south, other than being a high school student, mostly consisted of youth advocacy. Although this is still a focus of mine now, back then, I mainly specialised in advisory and project delivery with organisations including the Queensland Family and Child Commission, Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

Why did you choose to study law at ANU?

The reasons I chose to study law at ANU are probably quite similar to those advanced by my peers. Not only is ANU home to a law school renowned both in Australia and abroad, but it also enjoys a rich culture of advocacy and constant advancement due to its strong research focus. I wanted to study law somewhere that is always improving with unparalleled access to unique opportunities, and I thought Canberra would be the place to be.

What have you enjoyed the most from your degree (e.g., culture, specific courses or lecturers, etc.)?

I have most enjoyed having the ability to combine concepts taught in lectures with critical thinking and creativity to ideate innovative solutions to complex problems in practical circumstances. I’m fascinated by how the law becomes illuminated during the most important times of people’s lives, and my tutors and lecturers at ANU have helped me to realise this ‘human impact’ in the practice of law. I find the challenge of the law enriching, and I value there always being more to learn.

What do you do outside of your ANU law degree for work/hobbies/etc.?

Outside of my degree, I’m blessed to serve as one of the Vice-Presidents of the Law Students’ Society (LSS), and to serve on some other youth advisory councils, including Bravehearts, where I can contribute to preventing child exploitation. Outside of my ‘professional life,’ I love playing volleyball, singing and jamming out to music whilst driving or trying my hand at embroidery, which I’ve recently gotten into. I’ll also play the odd video game or engage in a Netflix binge, but spending time with those I love is best.

What do you think the ANU College of Law could improve on based on your experiences?

Bearing in mind that I’m only a year and a half into my degree, and so have not engaged with a great deal of courses, I would love to see more practical opportunities within classes to engage in activities that are seen in practice. Competitions are a great way to develop these skills, but I believe it is pivotal to provide small yet continuous ways to do so in a low-pressure environment that enables students to get instant feedback so they can gradually increase their confidence.

What piece of advice would you give to students looking to survive and thrive in ANU law?

Many people suffer from imposter syndrome, or fear they won’t succeed in law because they lack connections. Although building connections is important, you must remember that this skill develops throughout your time in university (and indeed life), and that you will succeed in anything you truly commit to. Remember your motivation and back yourself; you’ve been chosen to study law at ANU for a reason, and you deserve to be here! Additionally, engage in competitions and activities offered by the LSS; this is a great way to get more out of your degree, develop your skills, and make lasting connections.

If you could go back in a time machine, what advice would you give yourself before starting law at ANU?

I would probably remind myself that flexibility and self-care are key. Oftentimes, when we’re trying to achieve the best results we can, life can become too heavily skewed in favour of work and study, and we can lose sight of the special moments. It is important to make time for things that help you to switch off so that you can be more productive later. From my experiences, having basic routines and not being afraid to ask for help can assist with this.

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