Alexandra Ablett Craven
Although I am originally British and was born in Greenwich, London I moved over to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates at the age of four and lived there until just before coming back to England for university.
As a consequence of growing up in Abu Dhabi my parents took every opportunity to take us to different countries and for roughly the first ten years that we were living over there we visited a different country every year.
In fact on my first visit back to England I remember asking my mum why Heathrow was so dirty and could we please go home now. However, I did come to grow extremely fond of England and by the time it came to going to university I was very much looking forward to the opportunity of living in the country that was technically my homeland again.
At the end of Year 12 the pressure to start deciding on a course and thinking about what I wanted to do for a degree began to mount with teachers talking about personal statements and the like.
I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, except that I wanted to be up North. Leeds for some reason had been on my radar for several years, possibly because it was fairly popular with people from my school or maybe because my dad comes from Yorkshire I am not entirely sure.
At this point it was a prospectus I was looking at, among several others (and I went through a lot of prospectuses), I systematically went through them and ended up thinking I could most likely do the majority of courses.
Regardless, eventually after much pondering and discussion I narrowed it down to International Relations (IR rather then politics because I knew I would have no patience for studying the English political system).
International Relations appealed because I had an idealistic perception that if I understood more about the system then there was greater potential for being able to make a difference to it. As a consequence of the travelling I had done the idea of understanding how states work and interact also appealed.
In the end my decision was between York and Leeds, but Leeds was the more appealing due to the range of choice and the opportunity to guide the path that you took the course down, choosing those modules, which you were most interested in.
My passion for IR
What makes me most passionate about International Relations is how it is continually changing and developing and is so relevant to the world around us. In the past year there has been Wikileaks, the earthquake in Japan which affected the Nuclear Reactors and the Arab Revolutions. The effect of all which remains to be forseen!
My experience on the course
I have found the course really fascinating and have particularly enjoyed the fact that I have been able to really guide the content of what I have studied.
As I have progressed I have found myself becoming increasingly interested in the Security Studies element of the course, and this has in fact been my favourite module. I really enjoy learning about the strategies of warfare and the manner in which states manipulate and manoeuvre within the International System.
Next year I am really looking forward to taking the module on Israel, as I have a particular interest in the Middle East in particular the Arab-Israeli conflict (which is why I have taken the module Zionism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict from the middle east studies department), not to mention I have heard that Clive Jones the module leader is an excellent lecturer and am thinking about doing my dissertation on something related to that topic.
Alongside this module I am looking forward to the one on American Foreign Policy, and Terrorism and Security as these all match up with my personal interests
The Learning facilities in the university are excellent and there is WiFi throughout the campus and the libraries are extremely well stocked.
Clubs and societies
Within the school I have participated in a number of activities, one of the ones I have found most rewarding is my role as a SLED leader this year. This involves acting in a facilitative role for either the module of International Politics or Freedom, Power and Democracy and encouraging discussion on the topic of that particular week.
On a more recreational basis, despite there being a considerable number of clubs and societies available and something for every one I would recommend to any future students that they don’t participate in more than one or two but also that they make sure to participate in a society as it is an excellent opportunity to meet people with similar interests.
Whilst in first year I didn’t participate in any societies, a fact which I regret, in the second year I joined the Mountaineering Club (although Rock Climbing would probably be a more appropriate name). As a member of this Club I was able to participate on regular trips and had access to all the climbing equipment (equipment which I couldn’t have afforded myself), I was also taught how to climb outdoors by one of the lads whereas previously my knowledge had been limited to indoor climbing.
Outside of study
With exception of going climbing, I also enjoy most outdoor activities and Leeds is really close to lots of beautiful countryside for hillwalking and Cycling. I also enjoy going to Hyde Park Picture House, which an excellent traditional cinema in the centre of Hyde Park which as well as playing contemporary Hollywood films plays alternative films and documentaries. Other then that I try and go to the West Yorkshire Playhouse and quite enjoy the range of cafes around Hyde Park Corner (quite a few of them serve Arabic food!)
Leeds is an awesome city, it really has something for everyone the shopping is great (a fact which is probably not as good a thing as people often think it is when the student budget is taken into consideration) and the nightlife is really good. On the nightlife front there is a wide range of options and music of all sorts.
Although I still have another year left I have begun to think about what I am going to do and although in the long term the idea of applying to be a diplomat through the Civil Service Fast Stream really appeals I don’t quite feel ready for a proper career.
So, I am currently considering either applying to a Masters programme (either focusing in Middle East Studies or something related to Security studies) or applying to the Army as an officer with the hope of working in the Intelligence Corps as an Intelligence Operative.
That way I would be able to use the elements of my course which most interested me whilst getting to be in a job, which was active and involved being outdoors.
To anyone thinking of studying IR at Leeds…
I'd say do it! Its excellent course, the lecturers are always willing to help and there are loads of talks and such in addition to your lectures which are really worth going to.