About this segment: Person of the Month is an initiative by the University of Malaya Law Review which aims to feature a prominent member of the University of Malaya’s Law Faculty towards the end of each month. The purpose of this segment is twofold. Firstly, to give due recognition to the contributions of our student leaders and secondly, so that their achievements might inspire other members of the faculty towards greater success.
Khoo Sher Rynn, a final year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya
Khoo Sher Rynn, or better known as Sher Rynn, is a final year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (‘UM’). Sher Rynn is widely recognised as an International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot (‘IMLAM’) mooter within the Faculty due to her active participation in said competition three years in a row. Unbeknownst to many, Sher Rynn regularly takes part in humanitarian programmes and enjoys sports. Sher Rynn is currently preparing for IMLAM competition this year, and plans to go to Myanmar after she graduates to continue contributing to humanitarian causes.
Born and raised in Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang, Sher Rynn recalls that up until she was 17 years old, her ambition was to be a pilot; It changed when she went backpacking after she had graduated from secondary school. Sher Rynn travelled to developing countries, naming Myanmar as her first stop. At the time of her visit, Myanmar was still recovering from six decades of isolation and military dictatorship, because of this Sher Rynn was afforded the opportunity to observe first-hand what the people in Myanmar had to go through. Sher Rynn also points out that some states were (and still are) suffering from the civil war. Sher Rynn reveals that her experience in Myanmar made her decide to take up law.
‘Being fresh out of high school, there were so many things that I couldn’t comprehend. I didn’t understand why people had to suffer as such, how a country could be so regressed by authoritarianism, how life could be made better, easier and fairer for people.’
This unprecedented discovery of hers — at what appeared to be the right time — prompted Sher Rynn to apply for law school, as she felt that reading law would help her in finding the answers to all of these questions.
During Sher Rynn’s time in the faculty, she has notably participated in various mooting competitions; She ranked Top 4 as a finalist in the Internal Moot Competition 2015, she and her team made it to Top 24 and bagged the Professor David Vaver Spirit of the Moot Award in the Oxford International Intellectual Property Moot Competition 2016. Eager for more mooting opportunities, Sher Rynn then signed up for IMLAM 2017. It was this that sparked her series of ongoing success in the international mooting arena.
Sher Rynn (centre) at the Oxford Intellectual Property Moot Competition in 2016 which was held at Pembroke College, United Kingdom
Between studying and training for her moot competition, Sher Rynn also generously mentored the 2017 UM team for the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Moot Competition. One of her notable contributions to the Faculty lies in her admirable tenacity to participate in the IMLAM competition three years consecutively. Briefly, IMLAM is an arbitration moot competition that covers maritime and arbitration law. Sher Rynn’s first participation was in 2017. The competition was held at the National University of Singapore, Singapore and she was appointed Team Captain. After long and gruelling months of training, the UM team successfully broke through the quarterfinals and eventually ranked 6th in the competition. The unprecedented breakthrough was indeed a historic achievement, and it fuelled Sher Rynn to try out for the same competition the following year.
In 2018, the UM team headed to the University of Queensland, Australia to compete with various teams from all around the world. Sher Rynn’s persistence and steadfastness proved to be worth it in the end as the UM team broke through the semi-finals of the competition and ranked 2nd in the General Rounds. Sher Rynn herself was awarded the overall 2nd Best Speaker of the competition. At present, Sher Rynn is preparing for the IMLAM competition of 2019 which will be held at Erasmus School of Law, University Rotterdam.
Sher Rynn (third from right) with her fellow teammates and coach during IMLAM 2017 at the National University of Singapore, Singapore
Sher Rynn attributes the success and significant improvement of the UM team to the trust and support that her teammates and her have towards each other as well as their commitment to their work. In Sher Rynn’s words, ‘We respected each other’s personal space and we did not have to question each other’s commitment. Throughout the six months period, there were times when some of us lost motivation, but we helped each other get back on our feet.’ When asked about some of the valuable lessons that mooting has taught her, Sher Rynn says that, ‘I learnt that when we put in the hours out of passion and not for recognition, we’ll come to truly enjoy and make the most out of a seemingly stressful but rewarding journey.’
Sher Rynn (third from left) with her coaches and teammates during IMLAM 2018 which was held at Murdoch University, Australia
Aside from mooting, Sher Rynn also makes it a point to simultaneously pursue her interest in humanitarian work. Sher Rynn seizes any opportunity to do volunteer work during her semester breaks since during the semester, her studies, mooting, faculty commitments and the occasional sports trainings and competitions take up most of her time. In 2014, Sher Rynn spent 7 weeks in rural Borneo trekking and working on a gravity-fed water system that supplies fresh water to villages under the Raleigh International Borneo Expedition. The following year, she participated in a 6-week exchange programme in Kyrgyzstan for a Travel Journalism Exchange Programme during which she backpacked across the country, writing and publishing articles to promote tourism in Kyrgyzstan. In 2016, she worked with a group of volunteers known as ‘Love Without Borders’ to collect and transport blankets and stationery to villages and refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border.
Sher Rynn (top row, third from left) alongside her teammates in Kyrgyzstan for the Travel Journalism Exchange Programme in 2015
Sher Rynn’s most recent interest is in an organisation called the Burma Lawyer Council. She discloses that she was introduced to said council by Mr Stewart Manley, a lecturer in the Faculty. Briefly, the council consists of a group of exiled Burmese lawyers and a few parliamentarians that started a law school known as the Peace Law Academy (‘PLA’). PLA provides legal education to Burmese students and/or lawyers and aims to reinstate quality legal education. The students consist of undergraduates, pupil-in-chambers and practicing lawyers from different ethnic groups, most of whom came from communities that are suffering from civil war. Sher Rynn’s initial role within the council was to teach English but along the way, as progress is made, she is now able to conduct debates and engage in discussions on law, governance, politics and public policy with the students at the academy. Sher Rynn elaborates that all that time spent on volunteering was so that she could learn more about herself, and more importantly, about what she can best offer communities that could use extra help. Sher Rynn explains that since there are various types of communities, there are varying types of assistance required by the communities. Sher Rynn believes that there are many people who harbour different types of talents, skills and resources that could be of valuable help to communities that are in desperate need of assistance. Sher Rynn says that she usually finds out about these programmes through her friends, or friends of her friends. From there on, she usually found herself acquainted with like-minded people who would share with her information on similar programmes.
Sher Rynn (centre, seated) with her students at the Peace Law Academy in Mandalay, Myanmar in 2018
Sher Rynn was also the recipient of the Fulbright UGRAD Scholarship from the United States (‘US’) Department of State in 2017. She was granted the opportunity to participate in a scholarship exchange programme at the University of Wyoming for the fall semester. Sher Rynn describes her semester in the US as her most pivotal exposure during her university years. She elucidates that she came back from Wyoming with a newfound appreciation for learning — not for the purpose of studying for exams only, but for the sake of learning itself. Since then, she often tries to apply the same aptitude and inquisition that she acquired from Wyoming in her studies here in Malaysia.
Sher Rynn with her presentation during her fall semester in University of Wyoming, United States of America in the year 2017
Sher Rynn has also written a few notable articles that was published, some of which were award-winning. They were ‘Transparency in Political Finance in the US’ (published in Malaysiakini, Malay Mail in 2016), ‘Cultivating National Unity’ (published in The Star, First Runner-Up for the ASLI-STAR Merdeka Essay Competition 2017) and ‘International Humanitarian Law and its Challenges Seeping into the Isolated Burma’ (First Runner-Up for the ICRC Young Humanitarian Writers Competition 2018).
When asked about her write-ups, Sher Rynn elucidates that she writes for the purpose of sharing her passion and that more often than not, her writings are drawn from personal experiences. Her latest piece on ‘International Humanitarian Law and its Challenges Seeping into the Isolated Burma’ was a product of the research and interviews that she managed to conduct when she was volunteering at PLA. Sher Rynn says that she wrote the article in hopes of inspiring her students in PLA to write more English materials and to share with everyone else what she learnt from her time in Myanmar. Sher Rynn adds that the prize money that she won will fund her next trip to Myanmar after she graduates from UM.
Sher Rynn accepting her second prize award for the 2017 ASLI-Star Merdeka Essay Writing Competition
Adding on to her expansive list of achievements and contributions, Sher Rynn is also athletic. Sher Rynn used to play basketball for the varsity and residential college team in her first year. She is also a competitive swimmer under the 12th Residential College swim team and has been representing her residential college since her first year up until her final year for SUKMUM. Sher Rynn says that investing time in doing sports helps her get her life organised.
Sher Rynn’s advice to other students out there is profoundly put together: ‘There are so many things out there that one can do. Venture out and explore. Invest more time in yourself, learn more about what you like, what you don’t like and what you’re passionate about. Seize as many opportunities as you can while you have the luxury of time and energy as a student. There’s always something to learn from anyone, any situation, any mistake or any failure. As long as you’re learning something be it about yourself, about other people or the things around you, there’s no such thing as wasted time or effort. We’ll find much more contentment in the things that we do when we’re not basing our decisions on external validations or expectations from other people.’ Her life motto is also in line with her advice, which is to be kind to one’s own self and to be kind to others.