Calum Carson is a 3rd year BA Political Studies student, and a member of the Student Ambassador team.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, and your background.
I am originally from Stevenage in Hertfordshire, and have been involved in grassroots politics in my local area for a few years now. I became interested in politics after taking it as a subject for A level, and decided to further this interest by studying it at degree level.
Why did you join the POLIS Student Ambassador team?
When I finished my Government and Politics A Level - having been the only student to take the subject! - my school decided to abolish the subject from the syllabus to my dismay.
Since then, I have felt passionately that every student should have the chance to study and become involved in a subject as important as politics, which deals with issues as crucial as climate change, terrorism, third world poverty, and the governance of the UK and, indeed, the world.
The potential of this subject is too great to be ignored, particularly when it comes to inspiring students to change the world for the better. Thus, when the opportunity came along to play my part in raising awareness of this subject, I was only too happy to participate.
I also feel very passionate about promoting Government and Politics as an A Level to Year 11 students, as I, myself, only chose to do a politics A Level when another subject I wished to do was already full up.
I feel that this would not have been the case if there had been more information available at a Year 11 level when I was making my A Level choices. Subsequently, I feel that it was mere luck that I discovered this enthralling subject. I hope that by raising awareness at a Year 11 level more effectively, luck will not come into it.
Did you have anyone to talk to and support you before applying to university?
I was lucky enough to have a very inspiring and passionate politics tutor at sixth form college who was always on hand to talk to, as well as my Mum who has always been very supportive. In this way, yes, I did have someone to talk to and support me before applying to university.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I chose to study a Politics degree because of the importance of the
issues involved in the subject, and my willingness and passion to learn
about them and to do something about them. I would also say that one of
the most important factors in my decision to study Politics was the
inspiration I received from my A Level Politics teacher, who always
pushed me to formulate my own thoughts on political issues rather than
simply following the status quo.
I chose to study at Leeds partly because of the area, partly because of the University's reputation and the reputation of the School itself, and partly because I felt it would be refreshing to move away from the South. I would like to add that I have never regretted my decision to move to Leeds, and would recommend the city and the university to anyone.
What do you think of your course so far? What aspects of the course have you enjoyed the most or are looking forward to the most?
My course so far has been very enjoyable, except for a few modules. But, on the whole, it has been great, particularly the international modules. I would say my third year has been the most interesting so far as I am doing a Terrorism and Security module that is very intriguing.
Is university really that different from school?
Very different! At school, you are constantly monitored and berated on your workload and deadlines whereas a university ethos is focused on self-motivation and ensuring yourself that you meet deadlines for work. It takes some getting used to, but it makes for a much relaxed atmosphere, and provides you with key organisational and time-keeping skills that you will need after university.
What do you think of life on campus?
Life on campus at Leeds at fantastic. There is so much to do and so many societies to choose from, and there is always someone about and somewhere to go. The wide variety of bars and eateries is great as well, particularly Mine and the Old Bar.
What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
As stated above, there are many societies available, including a wide number of sports teams and political societies, as well as more left-field ones like the Tea Drinking Society. There really is something for everyone. I, myself, have dabbled in the Labour, POLIS and Film Societies, and I would strongly recommend the POLIS Society, which is a fantastic way to get to know your peers.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to university?
Make sure you research your preferred universities extensively before putting them down on your UCAS form. Make sure you don't decide on a university purely because of one aspect of it, such as the course or the surrounding area. Ensure that you do a degree for the right reasons. Don't study for a particular degree because you don't know what else you want to do.
Any top tips before starting university?
Just remember that everyone else is in the same boat. Everyone will be feeling just as nervous as you are, so just go with it and don't worry too much. Make sure you manage your time effectively and, in this vein, make sure that you have a healthy work-life balance. Don't let your studies take over your life. But, on the other hand, also remember to study as well as have a great social life!
What do you plan to do once you've finished your course?
I am currently contemplating a Masters in Politics and, potentially, a PHD, but we’ll see! Right now, I am just focused on my dissertation and enjoying my course.