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Interview with students of the Advanced Master’s (LLM) Programme - Marwan and Wen-ChinFeb-22-2021

What is your background and what brings you to the Adv. LLM programme?
Marwan: I am from France and I have recently obtained a French Master of Laws in Taxation and Business Law from the University of Lyon III, as well as a British LL.B. from the University of Essex and a French LL.B. from the University of Lyon III. I have also done several internships abroad, including one at Dentons Cape Town. I already had knowledge of French domestic taxation and EU taxation but very limited as regards to international taxation. This Adv. LL.M. is the best springboard for pursuing a career abroad.
Wen-Chin: I am from Taiwan. My previous education is related to Economics and Finance. I have worked for the transfer pricing department of one of the Big Four accounting firms. Before starting here, I worked for the Ministry of Finance (Taiwan), focusing on international taxation. To strengthen my ability to deal with international tax affairs and tackle challenges, I believe it is important to gain more in-depth insight into international tax law by studying in the Adv. LL.M. programme.
What influenced your decision to attend our Adv. LLM programme over other universities?
Marwan: It was undoubtedly the partnership between the well-renowned University of Amsterdam and the top-quality institution of IBFD. This collaboration is unique and enables students to gain in-depth and up-to-date knowledge, in addition to understanding the practice. The diversity of lecturers also plays a major role in the quality of the degree.
Wen-Chin: This is one of the top LL.M. programmes in the world. Moreover, its course design, particularly in the case of tax treaties, is very attractive. On top of solid academic training, the Adv. LL.M. also includes a one-month tax treaty negotiation course, allowing students to learn through action.
How are you experiencing the programme so far and how are you coping with the new reality and the online education?
Marwan: I have learnt so much in such a short period of time. I am happy with the curriculum and the (online) interaction with the lecturers. I also appreciate the fact that is very practical by giving us various case studies. Even though the programme is taught online, the programme has not compromised in terms of content and teaching. It is not always easy to study online but we are not left all alone. The teaching assistants, the lecturers and the admission’s office are here to support us during these demanding new times. Moreover, my classmates and I keep helping each other.
Wen-Chin: The lectures provide a large number of reading materials and challenging case studies. Although the programme is tough, I am happy that I have learned a lot in a short time. The online course is better than I expected. The number of students in this programme is small, so we still have lots of chances to interact with professors and other students.
What do you perceive as a benefit of online classes from your experience so far?
Marwan: I would say that we are saving some time by not commuting to the campus every day. It is also more flexible in the sense that I can attend classes in France or in the Netherlands.
Wen-Chin: I can always stay in cosy surroundings. I don’t have to worry about heavy rain or cold or windy weather.
What do you see as the biggest challenges involved in an online classroom environment?
Marwan: One needs to be self-disciplined by setting up a study routine. I also think it is more important than ever to go out and just take some fresh air and change circumstances for a bit. As far as I am concerned, I go biking every day for an hour and it helps me to stay more mentally healthy and keep a balanced daily life.
Wen-Chin: Indeed, I agree that self-disciplined is very important. It’s easy to get distracted during online courses. Besides, compared to face-to-face communication, I feel it is not very efficient to deal with group discussions or assignments online.
How has the contact with the professors and other students been?
Marwan: The professors are very approachable, and they are happy to answer any questions or concerns. With regard to the students, we have organized informal gatherings. Because of the online format of classes, we think it is important to meet up in person, even if it is only for an hour for dinner.
Wen-Chin: During the class, the professors always encourage us to ask questions and share different perspectives. They are also very happy to answer questions via e-mail after the class. I met classmates all over the world. In addition, for students who are in Amsterdam, we had some get-togethers. I hope I can meet all my classmates in person soon!
What do you see as current major trends in tax law?
Marwan: I would cite all the issues related to the digitalization of the economy. That is the reason why I chose to join the CPT project for my thesis. It encompasses a large number of topics, such as the taxation of artificial intelligence, blockchain or the discussions about OECD’s Pillar I and Pillar II.
Wen-Chin: International tax law is continuously changing. The OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project and digital economy have led to profound changes in the global tax system in the past few years, and this trend is expected to last for another decade, in my view.
How was the application procedure? Any tips for other students?
Marwan: It was pretty straight-forward. The admission’s office is always here to answer any question. I would recommend students apply in advance because they might have to comply with some further administrative requirements or paperwork.
Wen-Chin: It was not complicated. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to contact the University. The admission officer is helpful and always reply to e-mails promptly.
When the programme is finished, what do you intend to do?
Marwan: I would like to work in the International Tax / Transfer Pricing department of an audit firm or a law firm in South Africa. Depending on the prospects of the pandemic, I might be willing to do a 6-month internship in the EU before going there.
Wen-Chin: I will return to Taiwan and work for the government. I hope to focus on international tax and apply the knowledge that I have gained in practice.