Legal Eagles of La Trobe # 18 – Aseel Sammak
In their very first face-to-face interview for 2016, the Legal Eagle’s Editor Ashmal Naleem, and his trusty sidekick Liam McColl, sit down with Aseel Sammak to talk about her Law degree, and her role as Education/Vice-President for the La Trobe Student Union and Vice-President of the La Trobe Islamic Society.
AN: How do you balance your law studies with being Vice President of the LTSU and President of LTUIS?
AS: Well to be honest, I’ve actually taken a leave of absence for this semester and next semester I’ll be taking it as part time studies. It is a bit of a sacrifice to make your degree longer…an already long degree even longer, but that’s what I’ve decided to do and the option that I took. My degree, Bachelor in Law/Arts, majoring in journalism is five years, but I’ll be finishing it in six.
AN: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
AS: Ideally, I would like to work as a lawyer specialising in family law. Family law is probably my interest in the law area and I prefer to work in a smaller firm, where I can work locally with families who really do need help with things like that.
AN: Why family law?
AS: Family law because I did a little bit of volunteer work with an organization called the Muslim Legal Network in my first year of uni, and back then I was the referrals administrator, and so I met a lot of families who needed a lot of help with legal advice and things similar in nature. That’s where I think that spark of interest started from, and I’ve always been about human interaction, I don’t really want to work with just papers and things like that.
AN: What are some major issues you want to address in your role as Education/Vice President of the Student Union?
AS: My role as Education/Vice President, I focus a lot on the Education department so I am very passionate about getting the general student population involved with their education at La Trobe. So they’re not just coming here, going to classes then going home, but being a bit more active and aware of your policies and being a part of this bigger environment. So for me running activities and events which get the general population involved with things that the Student Union runs and La Trobe University does is a huge thing, as well as giving the student body a voice, when it comes to speaking to the University, making sure that the University always keeps students first and being that voice for student advocacy.
AN: What has been the hardest obstacle in your role in the Student Union?
AS: I think the biggest obstacle might be that your education or the system that you’re in can be a very boring thing for the general student… so sparking that interest and reaching out to people and always being there is quite challenging and we’re trying to come with different ideas and ways to keep people interested. There always a lot to do, but, you don’t want to be working a lot and not benefitting a huge amount of people, so just getting those people involved is one of the biggest challenges.
AN: Do you have any way you’re hoping to overcome this obstacle?
AS: So we held our first education department event, and it was the ‘Your education’s not a joke’ event, and it was a festival type of thing. And we’re leaning more towards these kinds of events so that it’s more fun but we’re still able to get our point across, and we’re hoping to go with that sort of flow for the rest of the year as well.
AN: What is Famsy?
AS: Famsy is a Muslim youth organisation, and what it does is it reaches out to Muslim youth in their teenage years and above, and gives them an environment that is welcoming and space for them to learn about their religion. It’s very safe and very focused on developing leaders. I’ve been working at Famsy since 2012 on the marketing team and help them run a lot of events, and also teach with them religious studies.
AN: You’re also quite involved with the La Trobe University Islamic Society?
AS: I’ve been Vice-President of the Islamic society since 2013, still running [Laughs]. With them, it’s sort of the same thing as Famsy, it’s all about getting people involved with their religion and combating the negativity that you see in the media. By allowing people to speak to us face to face, and just seeing who we really are, we’re just normal people.
AN: What is your number one goal to achieve while at university?
AS: For me, I think that ever since I entered La Trobe University, I relay wanted to not just be a student. So to be a part of various different things that allows me to impact different people’s lives in different ways, and that would be the reason why I joined the Student Union, and the reason why I joined the Islamic Society. Obviously my studies are very important to me and they always come first, but I don’t want to be the type of person that just hits the books and doesn’t know anything else or anyone else, so being that person who impacts another person’s life and just being a part of things is something that was important to me.
AN: What lasting impact do you hope to leave on the University, Student Union or Islamic Society?
AS: Can I talk about them each separately? [Laughs]
With the Student Union, just generally, I’d like to leave knowing that I’ve left more people involved with the student union, more people who are now interested in being involved in their education, and more people who feel empowered to voice their opinion when something is wrong or when they feel that there is something wrong in the education system. While as Education/Vice-President I’d like to leave knowing that I brought a different voice, because the team we have right now is quite diverse and that’s one of our biggest strengths, that we all come from different backgrounds, different areas of studies and cultural backgrounds. So knowing that I voiced a different opinion is really important to me.
When it comes to the Islamic Society, when I leave, I’d like to know that I’ve left spreading a positive image about Islam across La Trobe, especially since La Trobe has one of the biggest Muslim populations out of all the universities in Victoria. So being able to know that I’ve represented those Muslim students and spread that message in my time here is really important to me.
AN: Do you see your Law degree helping you in these roles? Or is it vice-versa?
AS: I think that they come together really well, with my Islamic Society and Student Union role I get to interact with different types of people, and a lot of face to face interaction. And I’ve learnt so much in the Student Union role, even though its only April, I’ve learnt so much in terms of administrative work, there’s a lot of regulations we have to learn about. So for me, it’s a lot of hands on work you don’t get as just a student, and it’s also a great networking opportunity to meet other students and lecturers and sort of outside that bubble you’re in when you’re just a student.
With the Islamic Society, I think it has helped me grow a lot in terms of maturity. And it’s not easy being a law student and having extra-curricular activities that you’re doing as volunteering, because we’re always low on time and always stressed out so it helped me to organize my life and give me normal life skills… to keep your life organised [laughs].
AN: What’s your favourite way to unwind after a busy day?
AS: so I have a little brother, he’s seven years old and he’s got downs syndrome, he’s diagnosed with cancer at the moment so he’s going through chemo and things like that, so for me, my favourite thing to do out of the office is to spend time with him, take him out and that family bonding time is important for me.
AN: What’s your main source of motivation for your ambitions?
AS: Well, a big part of it is for me is that I believe that everybody should be extraordinary in one way. It’s not enough to just live life being a normal person, you grow up, you work, you get married and have kids, you die. I don’t want that; I want to be sixty, eighty and look back on my life and know that I’ve made a difference on someone else’s life or I did something that is extraordinary. And my time for me is really valuable so I think that the time you have in this life, you should use wisely as you can, and any second or minute I waste, for me, is not good enough. I need to do the best that I possibly can.