Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I am 20 years old and grew up in Swansea, South Wales. Swansea is a small city on the Gower Peninsula and much of my childhood was spent camping, walking and swimming along the coast. I have always had an interest in travel and was lucky enough to go to Bali when I was 10. On this trip I saw first-hand the vast inequalities experienced across the world and it sparked a lot of questions about the way the world works. I never gained satisfactory answers to these questions and therefore I eventually chose to pursue this through a degree in International Development.
What motivated you to apply to study your chosen course and why did you chose Leeds?
My interest in international development began at a young age but I didn’t consider it as a degree option until I studied World Development at A-level. Up until that point I had no idea what degree I wanted to study but I had a keen interest in current affairs, history and human geography, all things encompassed in this degree. I knew that I wanted to work in the third sector after university with the potential to work overseas therefore I thought this degree would be the perfect avenue into that.
The course at Leeds stood out to me because it is fully integrated into the Politics and International Studies department and therefore had a firm grounding within social sciences. This has been integral to my understanding of international development within the broader global political context, and therefore has thoroughly enriched my studies.
Leeds as a city also played a massive role in my decision to study here. I knew that I wanted to study at a campus university but I also wanted to be near/in a big city and Leeds strikes the perfect balance between the two.
What do you think of your course, have there been any particular highlights for you?
International Development at Leeds is a fantastic course due to the specialist knowledge of academic staff. Every lecturer in the department conducts their own research in the field and therefore the modules are supported by first-hand experiences. This has helped me become passionate about the subjects we study and narrow down my own personal interests.
I have also had the opportunity to widen my interest beyond those specific to International Development. POLIS has a wide range of modules available every year and therefore I have taken an interest in political theory – a topic I never thought I would have much interest in. However, through taking optional modules I know have a far greater understanding of the works of Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon and bell hooks.
How would you describe the help and guidance provided by the staff within the School?
Academic staff within POLIS are hugely supportive of our studies and in my personal experience are always available to give additional support. In first year I rarely used academic support hours but I changed this in second year and my work has improved dramatically. Tutors are open to seeing students outside of office hours as well and will respond to emails quickly, which means that there isn’t much opportunity to feel lost.
The non-academic staff within POLIS are also hugely supportive. In my second and final year I have been involved in the POLIS Peer Mentoring Scheme to provide peer support for first year students in POLIS. This has been a really positive experience for me and demonstrates the willingness from staff to help with any and all problems that students have, from career opportunities to house hunting.
How would you describe the facilities at the University?
The university campus itself is fully equipped with all the facilities you could ever need. I use the libraries almost every day to source books, print out materials and for independent study. Whilst the newer libraries are often very busy, there are always alternative places to work, including cafés and computer clusters. In addition to study spaces the Students’ Union has a number of bars and cafés to meet friends, as well as basic services such as a bank, supermarket and opticians. There is also a large gym on campus which is really handy in first year if you don’t know your way around the city. I would definitely say that the campus caters for all needs and has something for everyone.
Have you been involved in extra-curricular activities, such as societies, summer placements etc?
In my second year I started volunteering for the society Student Action for Refugees (STAR) and this year have become Co-chair of the committee. Aside from my degree this has been the most enriching experience of my time at Leeds. The society is part of a national charity whose aim is to welcome refugees and asylum seekers to Britain through local volunteering projects and campaigns. My role is to organise twice weekly conversation classes where students volunteer their time to practice basic English with refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds. Through this experience I have met some incredibly interesting people and have gained new, practical skills outside my degree.