I come from Chelmsford in Essex where I studied at King Edward VI Grammar School for my A Levels. I did Government and Politics, History, English Literature and French. I am currently in my third year and have just completed my placement with Priti Patel MP, the Exchequer Secretary. Prior to that, I worked for Congressman Don Young in Washington DC.
Why I chose Politics and Parliamentary Studies (PPS) at Leeds
There wasn’t any other course that offered the chance to live and work in Washington DC and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to visit the university prior to enrolling but I knew that I wanted to go to a campus university. I'd also heard from a number of people at my sixth form that Leeds was a great place to be a student-they were right!
My passion for Politics
I did Government and Politics A Level where, in the AS, I learnt the basics about the legislative process and the makeup of government. In the A2 I studied political theory and the different schools of thought. I had very little interest in politics before studying the A Level, but I found the whole course really interesting, and deciding to studying politics at university was one of the easiest and best decisions I’ve ever made. My real interests lie in political history and the modules that Leeds offer cater really well to that.
My placement year
I spent my first semester working for an Alaskan Congressman in DC, and my second semester working for an MP in London.
In DC there was a structured system for interns, so there were a lot of events and talks specifically for us. Whilst in the office I spent a lot of time writing letters to constituents, answering the phones, and because my Congressman was a committee chairman, I did a lot of briefing notes and research for that.
In Westminster, I worked in a much smaller office so I did a lot more varied work. I mainly focused on constituent casework and liaising with the DWP, writing press releases, newspaper articles and speeches.
I have had many highlights during both placements- In DC this included meeting Speaker Boehner, helping to organise an Endangered Animals Meet and Greet event with the Natural Resources Committee, and being in DC for Thanksgiving and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. In Westminster, the most exciting day of my internship was Budget day where I was able to watch the speech from the Commons balcony, and then write speeches and press releases on its impacts – it was a very busy day!
I have learnt a huge amount on these placements and in particular, I have developed my writing style, networking and communication skills. I also have some great experience to add to my CV.
At the beginning of my placement in DC, I decided that my dissertation topic would be focused on a comparative study of US and British politics. I’ve therefore spent this year organising a lot of interviews with politicians and attending as many talks on my subject. I would really recommend doing this is you are on a PPS placement as you will be able to get original material from politicians which will help your research. My placements have enabled me to gain a lot of useful contacts and have also given me a feel for working in the US Government, and the British Parliament.
Life in Leeds
Leeds is a great city to be a student- there's loads to do. Headingley is a great place to live with a lot of pubs, bars and restaurants. I also love the fact that although the university is in a city, there is a campus which creates a student hub. I've had part time jobs working in restaurants in the city centre in my first two years. There are so many restaurants and bars that rely on students for staff so there are always jobs about.
Outside of studying
There are a lot of societies to be involved with as part of Leeds University Union. I've played an active role in RAG in my first and second years, and I was a member of other societies including Snowriders, Food Society and of course, POLIS. Each organise socials and trips away and are a great way to meet new people, especially in your first year. In my final year I’m looking to get back involved with these and hopefully join a few more.
My advice to prospective students
For anyone thinking of applying for PPS, I would recommend getting some work experience with your local MP or doING some campaigning for the upcoming election. It will really help give you an idea of whether you’ll enjoy being active in politics for a whole year. It’ll also give you something interesting to talk about in your interview. It is a fantastic course, so anyone interested in politics should apply!
My future plans
I am keeping all my options open but currently I am thinking of pursuing a career within Public Affairs/Government Relations.