Interview with Ruhiyya Isayeva
What is your background?
“I’m a practising legal advocate from Baku, Azerbaijan. I’ve been practising for approximately 14 years in various areas of law, and also teaching at Baku State University, specifically about the impact of European law on National law, as part of Baku State University’s European Law Master’s programme.”
Why did you choose this programme? Why in Lund, Sweden?
“Studying the Lund University programme in International Human Rights Law has been my dream for 20 years. I heard about Lund University for the first time when I was studying the Bachelor’s programme at Khazar University in Azerbaijan, and some of our alumni had received a Master’s at Lund University in International Human Rights Law. When I checked the webpage of Lund University, the first picture I saw was of the main university building (universitetshuset). There were trees in front of it, with beautiful blossoms, and I just fell in love! When I came here, the first thing I did was to go and see those, apparently magnolia trees!”
What do you think about your choice of programme so far, does it live up to your expectations?
“Yes, this programme provides a very good background at Master’s level, and encourages us when it comes to our further research, because every course encourages deep further analysis of a specific subject, and there is a subject for each person which matches their interest, for example, I’m interested in Business and Human Rights, some are interested in Immigration Law, and there is an opportunity to choose what you wish to specialise in.”
What is your favourite course and why?
“In the past I practised business law in an international law firm, but I also often acted as a legal consultant to organisations such as UNDP, UNICEF, WB, IFC, Council of Europe, European Union and others, so when I worked with them it often involved human rights. When I came here, I saw the subject ‘Business and Human Rights’ combining these two topics together, which surprised me as I hadn’t realised there was a course which did this. Within my practise I had been promoting respect of human rights within business, so when I saw this subject, I decided that this would be the topic which my Master’s thesis would focus on.”
What is it like to be an international student at Lund University?
“As an international student, personally when I came here, I felt like I’d lived here all my life. I didn’t feel like an ‘alien’ person. People are very nice, open and friendly. The University is very supportive: the teachers, faculty and the international desk are all very helpful. The atmosphere which is created here is very friendly, so any international student will feel at home.
In addition, students have lots of opportunities to get involved in their spare time. First of all, there are many student organisations, nations, associations, networks, study groups, etc. that students can join depending on their professional and/or other interests. I am involved in so many activities that I don’t know how to describe them all!
Secondly, students of Lund University sometimes have the opportunity to work, volunteer or do an internship alongside their studies, and to conduct their Master’s thesis research in collaboration with a certain company or organisation.
Thirdly, students have an opportunity to go on exchange or join some programmes conducted together with other universities. One of such programmes I joined is the NICE programme about intercultural competence and entrepreneurship. Our team is now involved in helping solve one of the Global Challenges – trying to find solutions to the issues resulting from the recent Covid-19 crisis.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I am interested in doing a PHD, building on my Master’s degree, because I would like to continue to teach at university level either here or in Azerbaijan. That is my priority, but if it doesn’t work out, I will also be applying for jobs in the area of business and human rights, to jobs which involve corporate and social responsibility, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), potentially consulting companies to support them in respecting human rights and being a responsible business.”
How have you found the student experience of studying while also being a mum?
“My daughter joined me as a family member, and then she also got accepted at Lund University, which is really great. I think it’s important that the Swedish Institute and Lund University support education for women and girls, thereby contributing to two of the SDGs, so I’m very grateful that myself and my daughter have this opportunity. Mothers have to manage a lot of things at the same time, and I think those skills have helped me to manage all these activities alongside my studies!
In my volunteering with the Swedish Institute Network for Future Global Leaders in Lund (SI NFGL), I sometimes feel like the ‘mum’ of the group, especially when it comes to fika shopping for the events. Another funny thing is that I have downloaded my daughter’s schedule to my phone, so sometimes I remind her about her lectures, and she gets surprised.”
What are the highlights of your time here so far?
“I’ve conducted some seminars for students and graduates of Lund University on topics such as the prohibition of slavery and forced labour, and leadership. Because of my involvement with SI NFGL, I have done a lot of other events with international students. It is really interesting to work with so many people from different nations and cultures. If you understand and are sensitive to intercultural communication it works really well, and our events have been very successful. We work really well as a team, and I have really admired my fellow team members’ dedication, meeting every Saturday morning via Skype! We had an event about applying for a PhD, and a job finding event after that, with over 80 people attending. I feel really happy seeing what we can achieve as students.”
What do you think of the teaching style here?
“I really like the teaching style here because the classes are not ‘monotone’ lectures, they are very interactive: we are involved in discussions, there are presentations, and the materials are uploaded onto the student web, so it is very convenient as well.”
Why should prospective students choose this programme?
“There are so many resources here for studies. I love the libraries where everybody is studying, it creates such a good atmosphere that you feel like you have to study! For students of International Human Rights Law, we have the Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s library with all the literature you could possibly want for all areas of the field. Everything is there and it is open for us 24 hours a day. Sometimes I need to get out of the house for a quiet place to study, which is always available, even during the night. You even have a kitchen in the library to heat your food. We have access to electronic resources and physical books, and you can easily order books for delivery to your library on campus.
Finally, the teachers are very supportive. If you have questions you want to discuss, they are so available and approachable, you can meet them and discuss your projects and ideas with them like friends and equals. What else could a student need?”