Interview Hasnaa Beni Driss
Last year Hasnaa Beni Driss won the first Loyens & Loeff Law & Tax Award. Read her interview here.
How did you experience the evening of the ECHO Award 2018? What did it feel like to win in the end?
I really enjoyed the ECHO Awards 2018. Of course I was a bit nervous at the beginning, but this changed as soon as I felt the relaxed vibe of the evening. Many people I knew came, so I felt very comfortable. We had a delicious dinner before the awards really started. Various speakers were interviewed and the nominated candidates were presented with fun, creative videos. I found the spoken word presentation particularly inspiring. The story of Rashid el Morabit made me want to win the award even more! The presentation for my category was the last one, and tension had already risen quite a bit in the meantime. I was the only woman in this category and once Minister Van Engelshoven mentioned a "she", I think I already shouted it out. But at that time I couldn't really grasp that I was really going to study at UCLA for a summer.
How did you prepare for the Summer Course at UCLA?
In preparation for the Summer School at UCLA, I had to arrange all the paperwork. Luckily, the people from ECHO and the UCLA registration office had already done the preliminary work. I sorted out my housing plan and my preferences on, for example, the kind of room I wanted on campus. I also had to arrange my visa. Finally, I selected my courses. After years of law, I wanted to do something different and deliberately did not choose legal subjects. Lastly, I had a lot of fun figuring out what I wanted to do in the six weeks that I would be in LA, and with the stories of the other three winners who had been a session earlier.
What exactly did you do? What did a typical day look like? What was it like to spend aw weeks on a American university campus? How different is it from the Netherlands?
I took the Principles of Economics course—during this course, we discussed the basis of microeconomic theory. In addition, on Rashid’s advice, I took the Leadership, Practices and Principles course. This course was mainly about how you can be the best version of yourself and how you can show leadership. Both courses were very interesting, with students from all over the world.
I stayed on campus in a room with two other students, both from the US. This was very nice and a great way to get to know people. The UCLA campus really is a campus as you know it from American films. It is super big with all the facilities you need, with a gym, a swimming pool, lots of dorms, restaurants, shops, etc. This is very different from studying in the Netherlands because you are almost always on campus. This makes you feel much more connected to the university.
A typical day on campus would start with breakfast in the dining hall, then a fifteen-minute walk to the other side of the campus for my courses, and at the end of the afternoon back to the part of the campus where all students were staying for dinner. In the evenings, we would go out in LA. On days I didn’t have classes, I could play tourist all day: I went to Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Long beach and Laguna Beach, I explored Downtown, I went to Hollywood and Griffith park.
With a group of students, we also made a trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Las Vegas was overwhelming, I have never seen so many people together. The hotels are immense, the casinos seemed endless, and with the amount of energy that is produced on the strip, I think an entire city could be provided. The Grand Canyon is a breathtaking place where there is a serene peace (if you take away all the tourists and telephones with which many photos are taken). A big contrast with Las Vegas.
What have you learned from this experience, in the field of study, but also in the human field?
From the economics course, for example, I learned how people come to make certain choices and how they can be nudged. This is certainly instructive, especially for a lawyer. I also learned a lot from other international students. Spending a longer time with different people, far away from home, allows you to zoom out of your own environment and the other, but also to get to know yourself better. That is an experience that I will never forget.
What are your plans after the Summer Course?
The coming year, I will be working at the Amsterdam Law Clinics at the University of Amsterdam. Also at the UvA, I am going to work as a workgroup teacher in private law. I am very interested in the issues that are adopted by the ALCs and where students are working on—these are always issues that serve the public interest. In addition, I am interested by the academic world and hope to be able to do research later. I would also like to be a lawyer, probably after this academic year.