University of Sydney quad

International student insights: From modern Malaysia to historic Sydney

20 October 2021
Malaysian student moves to Sydney to study a Bachelor of Laws
Elaine Yap shares her experience moving to Sydney to study law as an international student with a full scholarship.

Elaine Yap, Bachelor of Laws (LLB '98)

Born and raised in Malaysia, Elaine Yap had never visited Sydney and she knew very little about The University of Sydney. That did not stop her from applying for a full scholarship to study her Bachelor of Laws at Sydney Law School, which she subsequently received.

I did not do any research into the university or the city that I was going to live in. Those were the days before mobile phones and Google. I landed at Sydney airport one very hot summer day in 1993 with no pre-conceptions and just embraced every new experience.
Elaine Yap
Sydney Law School alumna, Elaine Yap with friends

Elaine Yap (front row, 1st on left) with friends at on campus at The University of Sydney.


While it looks like a bold move, the former international student explained that it is common for Malaysian students to travel abroad for their studies saying, “Australia is a choice destination as it is closer, safer and more familiar than most other centres for tertiary education.”

Since completing her law degree in Sydney, Elaine has returned to Malaysia, completed her pupillage, rose up the ranks to become Partner of Wong & Partners (member firm of international law firm, Baker & McKenzie), and has now established her own firm.

“In October 2017, I resigned as a Partner of Wong & Partners and established Elaine Yap Law Office to continue my legal practice more independently. I travelled for vacations with my family more in 2018 and 2019 than I did in the prior 15 years. I am especially thankful for that time now, considering how the Covid-19 pandemic later paralysed the world.”

Today, Elaine has built a reputable and established career in law. However, as a student Elaine confessed that transitioning to law studies did not come easily to her.

What was your experience studying law at Sydney Law School?

Sydney Law School alumna, Elaine Yap

Elaine Yap with Former Dean Professor Jeremy Webb (left) and donor (right) of the Tomonari Akaha Memorial Prize for Equity at Sydney Law School's 1998 Prize Giving Ceremony held at the Assembly Hall in the old Law School.

Recounting her study years, Elaine said, “I did not get great scores in my law subjects in the first 2 years as I transitioned to tertiary studies. I struggled with subjects like Jurisprudence and had trouble writing essays. I do not recall any moment of enlightenment and just adapted over time.”

Elaine’s early academic record clearly did not hold her back from an established career in law, and highlights that it does not determine future career success. She credits her excellent law school education for why terms, concepts and principles of law learned have stuck with her until today. At Sydney Law School, Elaine went on to be awarded the Tomonari Akaha Memorial Prize for Equity.

“As a litigator, I often tell lawyers in training who are still uncertain about which area of practice to branch into, that litigation is the best area of practice if they love the study of law. The principles and precedents learned in law school do all come alive in practice.”

Why Sydney Law School?

While Elaine considers it “a stroke of good fortune”, it was the University’s robust scholarship program that lured Elaine to our shores.

“I applied for and won a full scholarship from the university. I was thrilled and chose to take up a double degree in science and law. I was until then, a pure science student with a love for double maths and physics.”

I am forever grateful for the scholarship that allowed me to live the student life in Sydney for 6 years.
Elaine Yap

What was campus life like?

Elaine’s time on campus created many unforgettable memories.

“The last couple of years at International House on City Road were the most memorable. My fondest memories as an international student are of the times I spent with the lifelong friends I made there. The banter we had around the dining table was always pure gold. The transition to studying full time at law school in my last 2 years in Sydney meant that I spent a lot of time in the old law school building on Phillip Street in the city. There is something to be said about being a part of history.”

I received a great education in a university steeped in history and tradition and got to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I can honestly say that the time I spent there was the best time of my life.
Elaine Yap

Find out more about the scholarships available to international students.

The University of Sydney Law School Dean's Scholarship is currently open for applications, and is available to international students commencing in the Juris Doctor or Master of Laws.

The Judge Ralph J Perdriau Postgraduate Research Scholarship in Common Law is a postgraduate research scholarship available to international students. This scholarship is open for applications until 1 November 2021.

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