What made you decide to do this MA programme?
It was the year after had finished my BA (International Relations) at Nottingham Trent and I was living in Newcastle working in a call centre. I hadn't got enough qualifications and experience and was in a bit of a dead end so I thought I would come back to Uni and build on what I had learned as I didn't want my first degree to be a waste of time. I chose this MA because, for me, it sounded like the most interesting out of the International Studies courses.
Why did you choose to study at POLIS?
Perhaps this isn't what you’re supposed to say, but I didn't really give it that much consideration. One of my best friends is an MA candidate in POLIS as well, he had done most of the research on the department and it all looked really promising. So I suppose you could say my mate talked me into it.
What do you think of your course so far – How has it matched your expectations?
Well, once I got over the initial anxiety about whether I would be able to handle the work, I've loved every minute. Before the course I was hoping to meet some interesting people and find some opportunities and inspiration about what I wanted to do with the next few years so in that sense it has lived up to my expectations.
What have you enjoyed most about the course so far?
I get to sit in Seminars with people from all around the world and their viewpoints are illuminating and enriching.
What would you say about the facilities in the School and at the University in general?
I've been really happy with all of the facilities on offer whether it's for studying or running a society. There's a lot of stuff to do on campus and generally the University has a very active, convenient and welcoming culture.
You are Director of Communications for the International Affairs Forum, can you tell us a bit about what this involves?
In general, it involves a lot of email and stress! I work with organisations off-campus to bring guests to come and speak at Leeds. So by the end of this year we will have put on about 15 events on topics ranging from the rights of indigenous people in Brazil to the International Criminal Court to Burmese political prisoners. We've also been trying to widen our audience a bit and now have people coming from LeedsMet and some local NGOs. The next confirmed event is Prof. Patrick Chabal who is coming to talk about 'Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling’ on March 5th at 5.30 PM, location TBA. We are also going to be choosing next year's committee soon so if anyone is interested in running the Forum, join our facebook 'Friends of the International Affairs Forum' and we'll let you know when this will take place as well as updates on the rest of our events.
What would do you most get out of being a part of the International Affairs Forum?
When the talks go well and the audience gets on with a great guest like Alan Woods it's a lot of fun. We always have a Q+A afterwards and these have been really interesting. Several of our committee, myself included, have also used the Forum as a way of highlighting issues that they have been involved with through journalism, interviews and even a documentary which can be found at www.iaforum.org.uk. Being on the Forum has been a great way to develop all kinds of skills and experience.
Last year you took part in the Kulika Internship in Uganda, it sounds an amazing experience and opportunity. What did it involve?
Kulika is a Ugandan NGO that works in two ways. Firstly, it grants Ugandan students scholarships at UK universities, and secondly it trains farmers in sustainable organic agriculture methods. I worked in Kampala for 9 weeks helping Kulika develop documents to make them more appealing to donors, for example a Business Plan. As Kulika is partially run from the UK, I was involved in helping the Uganda side take full control of running their website www.kulika.org and even got to hire a local web developer which was quite emotional because he was so pleased to be working for Kulika.
What did you gain from this experience?
On one level it made a lot of the issues I had been studying and also that I am doing this year come to life so it has helped me study a lot. Kulika allowed me to do things I wouldn't have the opportunity to do in the UK. I can only comment on what I saw in Uganda but the most important lesson that I learned was that despite all the literature about the corruption and incapacity of African governments and people, I went to work with brilliant and inspiring professionals who work tirelessly in the face of all sorts of challenges to bring in education and skills at a grassroots level. Kulika's work is fragile but their approach is bringing thousands of people the opportunity to take back some control and security in their lives.
Tell us about your favourite lecturer
Professor Alice Hills has always had time for me and given me a lot of opportunities, telling me about Kulika for a start, and she brings out ideas in people very well. Professor Ray Bush's course has opened my eyes to a lot of issues and he is a riveting lecturer.
What do you hope to be doing once you graduate?
I want to do a PhD, but will take some time out first to get some money together. I've started a support program in Western Uganda that works with victims of armed conflict so I'm looking forward to being able to focus on that more. I'm on the lookout for related jobs to my course at the minute and would quite like a spell in London, which is where a lot of these kind of jobs tend to be located anyway.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I watch Newcastle United disintegrate playing relegation standard football matches.
What are your plans for the future?
As long as I keep learning and seeing the world I'll be satisfied.
Is there anything you would change about POLIS?
There should be free language electives for MA students, that’s the only thing that I would change.