Meet our student

Rachel Van Gemert

Course of study:
Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts

“I went on the study tour “when the Levee Breaks” in the deep south of America and studied the wrongful incarceration of people with the Innocence Project New Orleans”.

‘I initially began university studying a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe but after a semester I decided I wanted to challenge myself even further and open my career avenues, so I decided to enrol in Arts/Law. I chose to study at La Trobe because it’s a university with a strong commitment to social justice and this has featured strongly in my Arts/Law degree. I enjoy my degree and believe it provides me with a holistic outlook as I look at the law from both a social understanding through my Arts subjects and a practical application in my Law subjects.

I have recently returned from an overseas study tour to the USA called “When the Levee Breaks”. The tour took place in the Deep South and my research concerned wrongful incarceration in Louisiana. It was an incredible experience to be living and studying in New Orleans – a truly immersive cultural experience. The study tour was by far the most rewarding and challenging experience of my university degree. Along with 28 other undergraduate students (each studying various degrees) and academics, we headed on a 30+ hour transit to the Deep South. The unique culture, food and music was prominent throughout our studies, with each student studying a topic of their choice. My focus for the tour was the wrongful incarceration and the role of the Innocence Project New Orleans.

Our tour began in New Orleans where we stayed at Tulane University, known for their work in arts and law. The campus was incredible – just like an American movie. We had four incredible lectures at Tulane on Hurricane Katrina, politics, the environment and the American education system. After nine fun-filled days in New Orleans, we headed to Natchez, Mississippi, formerly known for its cotton-picking fields. Here we learnt of the slave trade, and the terrible conditions faced by many African-Americans. From Natchez we headed to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where blues music was the central theme. The highlight was a canoe trip down the Mississippi river, the perfect day in Arkansas. Last we headed to Memphis, Tennessee for more good food and music. The highlight for me was the National Civil Rights Museum built around the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated in 1968. The museum was heartbreaking yet fascinating at the same time. The tour was eye opening, confronting and culturally immersive, and I would recommend it to every undergraduate student – there’s something for everyone!

Many aspects of my studies and my overseas study have challenged my outlook and opinions about law and order. My Arts degree has allowed me to understand the principles behind theories of law and social understandings.’

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