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Student story

Talia Siataga

20 July 2023

"It seems no matter what field you go into, a Law degree will always prove useful..."


Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, with a minor in Political Science and International Relations

Master of Laws (International Law and Politics)

Foreign Policy Officer, Manatū Aorere | Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Tell us about what your study and job involves.

In 2021 I completed a Masters of International Law at the University of Canterbury. The focus of my dissertation was the legal obligations of states at the intersection of international investment law and indigenous sovereignty. My other research interests included corporate law, civil litigation (particularly class-action torts), human rights law and small state foreign policy.

I am currently working as a foreign policy officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, helping to advance Aotearoa New Zealand's bilateral and development relationships in the Pacific. My day to day work involves all the contracting and relationship management that comes with stewarding large development projects, as well as drafting briefings and talking points for meetings between foreign officials.

What do you find interesting about your field?

Having a postgraduate year to delve deeply into one area of interest for me was very rewarding. I was able to spend days educating myself on the history of the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as niche intersections of international economic law. Now that I am in the workplace, I am grateful to be working on both meaningful development projects that improve human rights outcomes in the Pacific, and also on issues of international relations that align closely to my field of study.

What motivated you to study your degrees?

I have always been interested in issues of justice, international human rights, and global politics. In high school I ran fundraising groups for anti-trafficking organisations and participated in Model United Nations. I also loved debating. So I think studying law, philosophy, and political science was simply a natural next step for me.

How has your study prepared you for what you are doing now?

It seems no matter what field you go into, a law degree will always prove useful. Though my first full-time role out of study is not a legal one, I find myself drawing on my legal skills almost every day. That being said, I believe it was Philosophy that taught me critical thinking skills, while Political Science gave me the knowledge base and language with which to apply those critical thinking skills to global events. Postgraduate study helped me improve my research skills and set me up with an area in which to build my expertise over the course of my career.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying in your degree area?

My triad of subjects fitted very well together. Studying Law, Philosophy, and Political Science (as well as taking the odd Indigenous Studies paper) gave me a well-rounded university education. To anyone considering study in those areas, I would just encourage you to continue exploring ideas and ways of thinking outside of your main subject. While building expertise in a core area is certainly an important purpose of tertiary study, I am a believer in the old maxim: A jack of all trades is master of none, but offtimes better than a master of one.

Do you have any career goals?

I have so many career goals at the moment, probably too many! I would love to be a diplomat, but I would also love to work at an international court or come back to academia. So I am keeping my options open, while also wholeheartedly committing to my area of foreign policy for the next two years, which may open up a new possibility I hadn’t considered or help me refine the possibilities I already have.

Why did you choose to study at UC?

Otautahi Christchurch is my home, so the rent is considerably cheaper here!

Have you been awarded any scholarships through UC?

In my first year (2016) I was awarded the UC Dux and Emerging Leaders Scholarships.

What other experiences have you had at UC?

While in my penultimate and final years of high school I took two PHIL 100-level STAR courses. It was a good way to acclimatise to writing at a graduate level, and to test the waters of my area of interest before committing to it!

What are your interests outside of your job?

Outside of work and study, my interests include creative writing (poetry, fiction), painting and drawing.

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