I was born in Cornwall but have lived most of my life in a small village in Warwickshire. My first real-life experience of the political world was when I worked as a vote counter in my local by-election during my A-levels where it struck me as very exciting.
Why I chose International Relations at Leeds
Ironically, I had next to no knowledge about anything in the political field until I reached University – all I knew was that I was interested in it because I could appreciate how monumentally important it is to every single person in society. I knew that a University degree was likely to be my final opportunity to study international politics having missed the chance at A-level. The choice to study international relations as opposed to domestic politics stemmed from my confusion and interest over the 2003 Iraq War when I was about ten years old.
The decision to come to Leeds was based almost entirely on its reputation as a Russell Group University and quite a bit of research (as I could never make an Open Day).
International Politics is unparalleled in terms of variety, contemporary relevance and capriciousness. The content I study enables me to understand, for example, the constant international conflict that the 10 o’clock news covers every night, instead of passing it off as “I don’t understand it and there’s nothing I can do to help.” That, and it’s a subject that offers fantastic amounts to get your teeth into and fuel a good debate!
The course is evenly balanced with 60 credits per semester. This means that time management is simplified, which is important for fitting in extracurricular activities and private study. Second year is similar to first year when it comes to the methods of assessment. This is helpful because you almost get a ‘practice run’ to build on concepts first explored in year 1.
University facilities and school support
Electronic resources that we have access to are immensely helpful and easy to access via the University learning platform online. The library contains every book I’ve ever needed for my essays and exams. There’s always a place to sit for private study too, be it the Library itself or café’s in the Union.
Lecturers and seminar tutors will respond to any queries you have promptly, which is obviously a great help if you’re working to a deadline. They’re always happy to discuss essay plans and exam matters to aid you in getting the most you can out of your studies. What’s significant is that it doesn’t seem to matter how often you ask about the same piece of work – they appreciate that you often only have one chance with a deadline and thus will offer their time to help you.
Outside of studying
There are countless opportunities for students, both recreationally and relating to your subject to aid employability. I personally enjoy the gym’s facilities and feel I ought to mention the cleanliness of the swimming pool! In first year I joined BandSoc who I rehearse with most weekends and attended student gigs with.
The structure of my course allows me to invest time in other activities like an internship with the Terrorist And Political Violence Association, and volunteering with the West Yorkshire Police in the area of Community and Police Support. These things are important for students because they offer contacts, opportunity for references, and experience of future careers.
Leeds as a city
As someone who originates from a village of barely 800 people, Leeds as a city managed to absorb me without ever being too overbearing. Public transport is useful but most things are a walkable distance. The city is large enough to offer something for everyone, and small enough to not get lost.
My advice to prospective students
If you think you want to do it, don’t hesitate – go for it! As someone who followed their heart in the decision to study international relations, I can vouch for the fact that it’s important to settle for a degree that you’re passionate about. Particularly when the work load is heavy; if you’re enjoying what you’re studying it makes it considerably easier.
I’d also advise buying one core text book for your core modules. Most resources can be accessed online or in the library, but having at least one text book of your own will be immensely helpful.
I plan on continuing my work with West Yorkshire Police with an aim to work towards investigative-based work on matters of serious crime, potentially counter-terrorism. I hope to practice the analytical and disciplinary skills I’ve developed in my studies and utilise connections I’ve made by volunteering alongside my studies.