I spent my junior year of college in India through a program run by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The majority of the credits the students in this program receive are from a large research project of each student’s own design, which culminates in a (very long) research paper. My own paper was 92 pages long, including a glossary of Sanskrit and Hindi terms, and several appendices. I approached this paper very strategically – I planned out my own paper deadlines and designed a strict research methodology for my paper, which I essentially followed to a T for the whole year. I still have the official, signed copy on my bookshelf in my room in its original baby blue binding from the local Indian printing company. I felt very clever for having written this great, long piece of scholarly work.
When I look over my thesis and other papers I wrote in college, I realize not only how far I have come in life and in school, but how very, very far I have to go. This year in law school I am working on my “note” for the International Law Journal, which will count as my upper class writing certification. It is a struggle – it is really challenging to write a good and worthwhile scholarly legal paper. I have a good topic, and I have done much research. The more I learn about international trade, human rights, and politics in the context of Bangladesh’s occupational safety and health issues, the less qualified I feel to voice some opinion about the whole matter, and the more I care.
I really want to do my topic justice and write a note I would be proud to publish if I were to have the chance. Everything that is on my plate in law school is competing for my time and brain power – classes, homework, exam preparation, pro bono work, student organization involvement… I find myself avoiding working on my paper because I want so badly for it to turn out perfect, and I don’t feel up to the task. The hours I should spend combing through trade treaties, bilateral investment agreements, and law review articles! The perfect articulations I ought to be able to voice after four years of college education and nearly two more years of law school!
My note adviser, Professor Caruso, assures me that this struggle – to find sources, to read them, to analyze them, and to articulate thoughts about them – is itself the value of working on an academic note for certification. She is, of course, right in a large way. However frustrated I find it, though, I am for once really invested in going beyond expressing a thought because it is required. Now I want to express this thought because I think it is important, eve if it is enragingly complex.