An Interview with Aneta Bajic, Law & Society Graduate
Our September 2017 Leader in the Spotlight features Aneta Bajic, a recent York University BA graduate from the Law and Society program. Aneta is a member of the Golden Key International Honous Society, and was a member of York’s Law and Society Student’s Association. In an insightful interview, Aneta shares her tips on improving oral presentation skills, a valuable lesson that she has learned in her undergraduate degree, and the effects of the liberal arts on one’s mindset.
1) How did you arrive at your decision to pursue a degree in Law & Society?
I was lucky in my last year in high school as I already knew what field I was most interested in pursuing in university. Every program I applied for was some variation of law and politics. Though I got into every university I applied to, I decided to stay at home and go to York for the Law and Society program. My main reason for this program choice stemmed from my uncertainty as to whether to pursue law school or post-grad. I still am not sure, having graduated just a few months ago!
I felt that Law and Society would prepare me for a Law degree, if I so chose to pursue, or a different aspect of the legal or political field. In addition, I was interested in learning about more than the dense legal world and the technicalities of law, but also the ways in which the law affects people on a daily basis, with less of a focus on the criminology aspect. I found Law and Society to be a perfect fit for me; I was able to take courses in diverse subjects like Sociology, Philosophy, Humanities, Criminology, and Anthropology— all of which interconnected with my core courses to provide an astoundingly well-rounded understanding of the impact of law in all its aspects.
2) In your profile, you state that you were disappointed with your initial attitude towards university, as a place you were forced to go in order to get a job. What sparked your attitude reversal?
Preparing for university in the winter and spring of my final year of high school was an overwhelming time. I was nervous about leaving the school I’d come to be familiar and comfortable with, and anxious about the expectations of university. In addition, as most of my peers were heading to university or college, the experience felt forced and just another way in which we were expected to conform.
My first semester of university was less exciting than I thought it would be, and I found it difficult to decipher the expectations of professors and the university experience itself. For example, I found it challenging to keep up with the lengthy weekly readings, and I had no idea what professors were looking for when marking tests. It was safe to say that my grades were lower compared to my final year of high school, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t trying as hard as I could have been.
It was in my second semester of first year when I had my first energetic professor that my attitude slowly began to change. My grades were the best in that class, which I attributed largely to the teaching style of that professor. However, my attitude reversal didn’t really change until I got my first A. I know it might be strange to seek validation in what you are doing from something as subjective as grades, but for me, it proved to me the value of hard work. It was exciting to think that I could prosper in a scary place such as university.
3) You have worked your way to becoming a member of the Golden Key International Honours Society, and improved your writing and presentation skills. What tips do you have for undergrads looking to improve in these areas?
Although some may find it easy to give up or to stop striving while in university, the fact that a student acknowledges their weakness is a significant first step towards improvement. Skills like writing and presenting are large parts of university life, and the only way to improve is to practice. I had friends who wrote essays during summer vacation just to improve on these skills. They would write about random topics—even ones that didn’t relate to their fields— and ask others to proofread the essays and receive some feedback. By the time September rolled around, they were ready to write their first essay of the year, as they didn’t let their writing skills diminish through excessive Netflix binging.
For me, I was always weak in oral presentations, and I had a habit of asking my T.A. or professor for an alternative assignment so I wouldn’t have to present. Then, I decided to take the time to improve on my presenting skills rather than taking the easy way out, and faced my weakness head on. I discovered this great article and found that I related to Warren Buffet’s previous fear of public speaking. This article gives great tips on presenting, especially; “Do what you fear. A lot.” As such, I took these tips and faced my fear of public speaking head on. Eventually, I led a seminar class in my fourth year – an hour long presentation – and received the highest praises from my professor.
4) What is a valuable lesson you have learned in your undergrad degree?
The most valuable lesson I learned in my undergrad career is to take more time than you think you need. I was always fairly good at time management, but once I reached my second year of university, I found time management to be a whole different ball game. I started to schedule my life – work, school, social life – to the minute, so I would have the proper amount of time to finish everything.
However, I found that the less I restricted myself to writing an essay or finishing an assignment and the more I allowed myself the time to take breaks in between and to write and edit slower, the better I did on that assignment. I attribute this to the importance of standing up and walking away from an assignment, and coming back with a clear head. Sitting and working on one project for hours can make your head fuzzy and lead you to forget the bigger picture or the main point you are trying to make. In addition, stepping away or working on something else can broaden your mind and enable you to discover new points or details you can add onto that first project. Thus, you can add new insights which may be exactly what your project was missing.
5) How has pursuing a liberal arts degree affected your mindset?
Pursuing a liberal arts degree has definitely had an effect on almost everything I do. I scroll Twitter and I criticize every news story I read, every politician’s tweet, every court judgement. I am able to easily decipher meanings with an outlook on the future while taking into account historical precedents. And of course, I have a knack for reading fast, while retaining understanding. I find that I have a broad mindset too, and can respectfully take into account each side of a story and develop my own understanding and opinion. Also, I find myself always connecting subjects to others, contrasting and relating them in order to derive an interconnected opinion or understanding of a subject.
I would always recommend a liberal arts course or degree to anybody. Even one course can instil in you some great methods of thinking and understanding the real world that you just can’t get anywhere else. This is why many universities have ‘general education’ requirements which include liberal arts courses at the core, to allow us to broaden our thinking, see abstractly but also to decipher main points, make connections and contrasts, and form our own solid opinions.