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Justin Tong

Image of Malaysia student Justin Tong

Justin chose Cardiff Law School over other UK universities because of the Cardiff Innocence Project which ignited his passion for Law.

Name: Justin Tong
Home country: Malaysia
Course: LLB Law

Year of graduation: 2019

Why did you choose Cardiff?

Frequently we hear people choosing Cardiff University because of its academic excellence, complete and state-of-the-art facilities and some even say because it is reasonably affordable. However, I chose Cardiff for a rather different reason.

The main reason I picked Cardiff instead of other similarly top-notch universities was because of the Cardiff Innocence Project. I was a first-year law student when I made my decision and I was (and still am) very passionate about criminal law, so I saw Innocence Project as the closest thing I could do that would be related to criminal law, before I am qualified as a criminal lawyer.

Of course, other universities have their own Pro Bono units working with criminal work, but Cardiff Innocence Project specialises in criminal law work and it was the only student-led project which has successfully overturned real cases in the Court of Appeal.

With such idea in mind, I turned down other offers without too much hesitation and Cardiff University Law School it is!

Tell us about your course. How is it different to classes back home?

People always wonder how different a law course taught in Cardiff can be, compared with those taught in Malaysia. Either way, surely it all boils down to a lot of memorising, remembering and repeating all of your knowledge in an exam. But is that true?

Here comes the myth buster… It is heaven and earth different! Law is taught in Cardiff in a more interactive manner and it is a subject which requires more analysis, understanding and critical thinking rather than mere memorising.

We hardly hear lecturers asking us to memorise, but it is almost certain that they will ask us to read and understand a specific area of law. Things never end there. Critical analysis of what we have learnt is crucial, as we will be asked about why the law has been developed in such a manner and how could it possibly be reformed in the future.

"People choose Cardiff University because of its academic excellence, complete and state-of-the-art facilities and because it is reasonably affordable. However, I chose Cardiff for a rather different reason."

Justin Tong, Malaysia, LLM Law 2019

Studying in Cardiff is also a course to test your discipline. People often get excited when they receive their weekly timetable. Our timetable will usually have no more than 5 hours of lectures and 4 hours of tutorials per week and Wednesday will be an ‘off-day’ for students to take part in extra-curricular activities.

Sounds amazing? Hold your horses though, you are still expected to do quite a generous amount of independent study and research to prepare for your tutorials (with some modules asking for 20 hours to prepare for a single tutorial). Do not try to outsmart the system by going into a tutorial without preparation, you can never escape and tutors will know how prepared you are as a tutorial is a platform for students to discuss and seek answers together. Tutors are not there to give answers, but they facilitate students through difficulties.

So, if you are not engaging in the discussion, please be ready to answer questions individually asked by the tutor.

What you have enjoyed most about studying at Cardiff University?

Studying at Cardiff University is generally lots of fun and it is impossible to list everything I enjoy about it. To mention some of my personal favourites about studying in Cardiff, it must be the opportunity for me to work with the Innocence Project. This is an experience which I could not have found anywhere else apart from Cardiff and I enjoyed it the most as I can put my legal knowledge into use to help people out.

Apart from that, there is also another perk about studying at Cardiff University. More often than not, you will realise that one of your lecturers is actually the author of the book you are reading. Therefore, when you are in doubt, it is always possible to ask the author straight away without having to guess what the author was trying to say. Also, I enjoy having deep discussions about the law with my lecturers (especially those who publish a lot of books!), because who knows if one of my points in the discussions will inspire them into writing a book where my name will be noted as his source of inspiration?

What is the best thing about living in Cardiff?

Ease of transport is the best thing about living in Cardiff. You will find everything within walking distance in Cardiff and you will save a fortune on Uber. Everything in Cardiff is accessible by foot, it takes only 10 minutes to walk from the Law School to the city centre and the best pub (in my humble opinion) is right opposite law school!

Another perk about living in Cardiff is that it is very well equipped and developed. Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and many important events are held in Cardiff, including the training of Welsh sports teams. To accommodate for the training of the Welsh teams, Sophia Garden Stadium and the Principality Stadium have been built to serve as very well equipped sports training facilities which the public can gain access to and visit for sporting events.

Personally, I enjoy indoor target shooting and it is fortunate enough that there is a target shooting range in Sophia Garden too. Thus, I usually find myself spending quite some time in the shooting range every Thursday.

"The Innocence Project is an experience which I could not have found anywhere else apart from Cardiff!"

Justin Tong, Malaysia, LLM Law 2019

Are you a member of any clubs and/or societies? What is it like to be part of a society?

Speaking of clubs and societies, I am one of the very few Malaysians who is not a member of the Malaysian Society. I do join their activities and know what is going on in the club, however I am just too occupied to be wholly involved with the club.

Currently, I am the Vice President of the Network for International Law Students (NILS). We are an international student-led organisation working to gather as many opportunities as possible for international law students to develop and hone their legal skills.

I am also a team leader for Cardiff Innocence Project and I am leading a group consisting of 6 caseworkers. We work in the Innocence Project as a family and we support each other emotionally and also intellectually.

How has the University supported you during your time here?

The University has helped me quite a lot, academically and also non-academically. The teaching staff here are very helpful, knowledgeable and articulate. Whenever I am in doubt, I am sure that an appointment with my lecturer or tutor will definitely allow me to clear my doubts.

Financially, the JobShop run by our Students’ Union is also very helpful. I registered with them early and they advertise all part-time job opportunities available.

What are your plans for the future?

I am planning to continue studying my Bar Professional Training Course at Cardiff University to qualify as a barrister in the UK.

I am also actively seeking for pupillage opportunity in the UK. If I happen to secure one of them, I will practice as a barrister in the UK.