Iselin Jones has packed a lot in. Raised in Norway, she worked as a journalist in Moscow, spent time in PR, been a TV and weather reporter for Channel Television, had two children and has now begun a career in law.
Along the way she’s picked up a degree in Multi-media Journalism from Bournemouth University, an MA in International Relations from King’s College, London and now an LLB at the Institute of Law in Jersey, graduating from the University of London with a 2:1. Oh, and had two children. All by the age of 34.
Last month her took up the position of Paralegal and family law firm, Corbett Le Quesne. She was chosen by the Institute team to give the LL.B graduation speech and shared it on Linkedin. It’s an inspiration, so we thought we’d share it too;
Mr Bailiff, members of the Court, Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I thought about saying a few words today, I began by thinking about whom I would have in front of me. Then I realised that the answer to that question pretty much sums up why THIS graduation is so special.
The last time I did a graduation speech was when I finished my international baccalaureate in Norway. I was 19. I had worked hard. I had pushed myself. I had achieved results.
At my first university graduation I was 22. Again I had worked hard. I had pushed myself. And I had achieved good results. My Masters graduation a couple of years later I didn’t go to.
But there was no way I was going to miss this one.
This time I’m 34. I worked harder than I have ever worked. I pushed myself harder than I have ever pushed myself and I am ten times prouder of the result I achieved than I was at any of those other milestones.
And the reason for that is that this time the achievement of obtaining this degree wasn’t just mine. Today I am here with my mum, my husband, my mother in law, my two children and one of my two bonus sons. The point is, this time my time wasn’t just mine. It was also my husband’s, and my children’s time. Without their support and dedication this would not have been possible. And that I suppose is one of the key things about being a mature student.
Whether it is family or work commitments you are juggling alongside being a student- the pressures of studying at this point in life are significantly greater than they were at any time previous- and the sense of achievement just as much greater too.
Now you may wonder why, with mention of those previous graduations I bothered to do this at all? Well, I was a journalist. I started my career as a broadcast journalist in Moscow, before doing a Masters in International Relations, with the ambition of becoming an international correspondent. But circumstance took me to Jersey and to cut a long story short I spent five years on and off at Channel Television and getting tied down by a Jersey-man.
It soon became clear that my professional future would potentially end up looking very different to the one I’d imagined. Local journalism was never part of my plan, but life took me to a place where that was really the only option. As much as I actually enjoyed it for the time being, there just wasn’t anywhere to go.
Law offered me a different route, but one that still maintained many of the things I loved so much about journalism- the human story- and the story telling if you like- the main difference being of course, that in law you’re allowed to take sides.
What the institute did was enable me to attempt a huge life change right here instead of having to go away to do it, an alternative which wouldn’t have been an option for me when this all began- I had an 11-month-old and a 2-year-old- and not to forget a husband who also needed occasional attention….
But the institute is much more than just enabling. The quality of the teaching, combined with small class sizes offered me, as a mature student an unrivaled learning experience, which I knew to appreciate because I had experienced being one student amongst hundreds in the past.
Every weekend over the last three years my family made a huge sacrifice, but every Saturday and Sunday I came home buzzing from the morning’s lectures. I really did love it.
Having said all that I was lucky of course that I was able to take the time, and that my family was able to make the financial commitment it took for me to see it through.
At the moment there is very little room in the system for mothers to retrain. I was quite surprised when I was contacted by social security, for instance, and told that the student exemption wouldn’t cover me as I was only studying part time- and this was clearly something I could do in my spare time.
Over the last three years I’ve been told many times ‘I don’t know how you do it’. But there are a few things I’ve always had in the back of my mind.
Firstly, thanks to my mum I have always believed that I can achieve what I set my mind to. You’ve got to believe you can do it, to do it.
Secondly, before having my daughter, Florence, my mother in law said to me about childbirth, and she’s got five kids so she should know- think of it as ‘mind over matter’. I found this applied equally to studying- and to be honest the last three years have felt a bit like a long, protracted labour…
But it is in many ways mind over matter that enables you to keep your head in the books for hours and hours on end- because as we all know, in law there are no shortcuts- you’ve got to do the work to get the results.
Thirdly, and I admit this was a huge source of inspiration to me, I am raising a daughter in an environment that is still very male dominated. As a Norwegian I am used to a social system that is much more supportive of working mothers and so showing my daughter that you can achieve even after you have had children, was important to me. You don’t have to be just a mother to be a good mother. There is space for you to be you too.
Not everyone agrees of course. I recall one dinner party conversation with a Partner in one Jersey law firm a couple of years back, which put a fairly big dent in my confidence in managing to build a successful future career in law.
How’s the ‘law thing’ going he wanted to know. And what was I planning to DO with my degree. Well work, obviously, was my response. Oh right, but why did I think anyone would employ me, over a freshly-out-of-uni 21-year old who’d live to work for no money at all.
It got worse when he realised I was hoping to start out on a part-time basis.
“People will think you’re doing it as a hobby!”
As we left he said: “Try not to be too disheartened by what I’ve said.”
“Do you know what it was meant to be”, he threw in at the end, “a reality check!”
So, I’ve have spent a couple of years now wondering whether that is actually the reality, whether there is any point in even TRYING to get a job in law. But in the second half of last year I approached a number of people, people I thought I’d want to work for and the feeling I came away with was that the attitude I experienced that evening was actually NOT the dominant one. That there would be a place for me, and that even in law the tide is changing when it comes to employing and allowing for working mothers.
So I felt brave enough to go out and say with my head held high WHAT I was looking for. The fact I needed to work part time right now, was not because I approached my work like a hobby but because I have young children.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last three years, it’s that I CAN get my work done in the hours that I’ve got available- possibly even better than the me that left uni at 22- without ever having had to juggle anything other than my own life.
This course offered me an opportunity to reinvent myself, to give myself a whole new world of possibility and opportunity here in Jersey.
And its exciting because I now feel a bit like that 22- year-old at the beginning of the rest of my life again, but with an amazing little family alongside me who are equally as committed to this as I am.
So, thank you to them for being awesome- to the institute for its existence, to the lecturers that have filled me with so much enthusiasm for the law and those employers out there who’ve restored my faith in mankind too- quite literally.
And yesterday, one of them gave me a job as well!
An inspiring speech that proves you need to be tenacious and follow your dreams. Barbara Corbett, Senior Partner at Iselin’s new firm is pleased to have Iselin on board; “We are very pleased to welcome Iselin to our growing team. Having studied law while also bringing up her young children, she has all the qualities needed to ensure that our clients receive the best care, advice and support when they need it most.”. Iselin is pleased too; “I am thrilled to be joining Corbett le Quesne as a paralegal. It marks the beginning of an exciting career change for me and I’m looking forward to being of assistance to families in Jersey who are going through a tough time.” We wish Iselin all the best for her new career!