Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

David Johnson

BA International Development | 2014 - 2017

Photo of David Johnson

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m originally from Birmingham and initially decided after college not to go to university. However, after working for a bank for a number of years I decided that it was time to pursue higher education. So I quit my job and came to study at Leeds…turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made!

What motivated you to apply to study your chosen course and why did you chose Leeds?

My interest in International Development emerged from a volunteering trip in 2011 to The Gambia and triggered the start of my academic interests. Up until this point I had been working for Lloyds Banking Group, something I had ‘fallen in to’ after leaving college. I was always interested in domestic politics but unaware of the global economic structures that really influenced politics globally. This first experience of a snapshot into life in parts of the Global South raised a lot of questions for me. I decided I wanted to answer these questions, really understand the issues behind the answers and challenge them myself. Leeds offers a great course in International Development that seemed to address my questions and after visiting the campus it became my first choice. In order to get on to the course I completed the BA Social Science foundation year.

What do you think of your course, have there been any particular highlights for you?

The course is fantastic as you’re exposed to a variety of perspectives on politics, economics and development initiatives, so you can really tailor the course to your interests. There’s also a good mix of theory and practical development techniques, such as producing written proposals for development interventions, which you’re likely to use in a career in international development.

The highlight of the course has to be the semester abroad in Ghana. It was an amazing experience and I would say it’s essential for anyone who really is interested in ‘developing countries’. This is not only for the experience of living in the Global South, but also for reflecting on your own positionality as a student of International Development.

How would you describe the help and guidance provided by the staff within the School?

I’d say that all POLIS staff are great at providing support and advice for modules and other aspects of life at Leeds, but the International Development lecturers are particularly great. The POLIS office is always there for any queries that you may have as well.

How would you describe the facilities at the University?

The Social Science building has recently been refurbished so it’s a great environment to study in – the POLIS common room especially as you can escape the busy libraries come exam season! The new Laidlaw library is a great place to study as well, along with the recently refurbished Edward Boyle library. There’s also a lot of places to hang-out and socialise, from the Union to all the green spaces on campus.

Since starting at the university have you been granted any scholarships, or won any awards for example?

I was awarded a Laidlaw Scholarship in my first year after completing the Social Science Foundation year with a First.

Have you had the opportunity to study abroad, or complete a year in industry? If so, please tell us about your experience.

I studied in Ghana during semester two of my second year – one of the options of the International Development semester abroad. This was an incredible time and I think an almost unique study abroad destination. I had the time to travel throughout Ghana and the surrounding region, with a field trip to Burkina Faso as part of one module. But it also gives you the opportunity to experience a different education and knowledge system, whilst being exposed to a variety of development perspectives from students, friends, academics and others. I learnt so much about International Development from six months in Ghana! I also carried out some independent research whilst in Ghana, which was published in a POLIS lecturer’s journal (http://roape.net/2016/04/28/ghana-rising-star-inequality/).

Have you been involved in extra-curricular activities, such as societies, summer placements etc?

In 2015 I attended a summer school, ‘Repoliticising Capitalism: Contradictions, Critique and Alternatives’ at Roskilde University in Denmark that a lecturer made me aware of. This was an incredibly inspiring two weeks and has helped immensely in my studies and general economic outlook.

In 2016 I also completed a Q-Step Summer Research Internship, where I produced research reports for a POLIS lecturer to be used in their ongoing work. This enhanced my analytical and research skills by examining antifraud initiatives in Asia and the Caribbean, including the key political-economic drivers, characteristics and repercussions of these initiatives. I presented my research findings at the 2016 AQMeN International Conference: Rediscovering Inequalities, at the University of Edinburgh and had a written published on the journal Review of African Political Economy’s blog.

Most recently, I was accepted on the Leeds to New York Student Leadership Programme, so I fly out to New York in June with other students from the University to meet business, government and non-profit leaders in the city

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