I was a mature student whilst studying at Leeds. I worked for a number of years between completing my BA degree in Kyrgyzstan and undertaking my MA course. My professional interest is in international development, hence the choice of course.
Why I chose Development Studies at Leeds
Development Studies was a natural choice for me because I had worked in international development for about ten years before I have decided to pursue an MA course. I decided come to Leeds because I felt the course was more practical and hands-on.
The course was great! Having such tutors as Caroline Dyer, David Hallmathews and Ray Bush presented a fantastic opportunity to discuss contemporary development issues in a complex way with leading experts. I thought that the course was practical but at the same time did not lack theoretical aspects thanks to lectures and talks both within the standard programme as well as extracurricular options. Overall, the course was very helpful for me in my professional development and I felt that no single day went to waste while at Leeds.
The University of Leeds is a great institution to do one’s degree. It is very cosmopolitan with many international students studying there. I truly enjoyed my course and benefited from meeting people from all over the globe, some of whom became my good friends. I felt supported from my very first day up to graduation. There was always something to do in the student union or somewhere else around the campus. Events are organised daily so there is lots to participate in. Looking back I realise that it was probably one of my best years so far.
Facilities and Student Support
There are some fantastic facilities, especially the libraries and computer clusters. I used the libraries quite extensively and could find almost anything I needed. I also used the newly opened gym which offered very good value for money for students.
The faculty were very helpful and approachable. My dissertation supervisor helped me a lot when formulating my hypothesis, designing the structure of my dissertation and recommending literature.
Leeds as a city
Leeds is a great city for those who enjoy socialising. It has got lots of bars and restaurants, shops, and cultural spots. I loved living there and I would live there again if I could find an international development job in Yorkshire!
Since graduating in 2011, I have completed an international assignment in Central Asia working for USAID Office of Transition Initiatives. My decision to join the project was in many ways informed by the research I did at university. In particular, my professional focus in international affairs has shifted to political transition and the role of media in transitional societies. It was not only knowledge and skills that I gained from the course but also professional contacts I have made with development professionals internationally, that were useful for my career. An informal alumni network maintained by my course mates has been a great platform for discussing challenges and issues in an open and informal way. It has been great staying in touch with my course mates and seeing where life has taken them professionally and personally.
My current role and plans for the future
I am currently working as a Programme Officer at Internews Europe, an international development organisation specialising in supporting independent media, freedom of information and free expression around the globe. The vast majority of our programmes are targeted at crisis-hit populations, emerging democracies and some of the world’s poorest countries. I am based in London and my geographical area of expertise now includes several countries in Africa, the former USSR, and several closed states.
My advice for current students
My tip for current students would be – do not underestimate the importance of networking. It is miles easier to look for jobs in international development through networks of professional contacts than through agencies. Also, a great website to look for development jobs is www.devex.com. Good luck with your search.