Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Emily Harrisson

BA International Development and Politics | 2008 - 2012

Photo of Emily Harrisson

About me
I am a fourth year student studying International Development and Politics. I am from London and have loved my time at Leeds so far. I love travelling and it has proved to be a very enjoyable, but costly habit to feed!

My motivation to apply to Leeds
Following my interest in certain aspects of human geography and politics I was certain I wanted to study international development. I wanted to study outside of London to get the wider university experience by living away from home and was really impressed by the staff and the city when I attended the open day at Leeds.

My passion for development
I believe development is really important because I believe in equality of opportunity for everyone and still cannot believe that such vast inequality exists and is not questioned.  

Sad but true development dilemmas lead me to study development and continue to ignite my passion for the subject, for instance how there is enough food in the world yet many starve and how illnesses such as diarrhoea which are easily treatable in developed countries result in death in developing countries.

The programme
I have thoroughly enjoyed my course so far and especially enjoyed the modules on development practice and north-south linkages. We have some very interesting debates in seminars and I feel that I will be leaving Leeds with a good grounding in my subject that will stand my in good stead for a successful career.

I would recommend my course to anyone who wants to explore the roots and possible solutions to poverty. Since coming to Leeds I have had very interesting debates on key issues such as aid, trade and debt and have benefitted from the breadth of knowledge my coursemates have shared. The course makes you reconsider your preconceived ideas and ask yourself challenging questions.

Leeds also has good learning facilities, a well stocked library and tutors who are always happy to help.

Outside of study
There are loads of great societies to join at the University – I have been part of STAR (Student Action for Refugees), LUU Dance and badminton to name a few.  University is a great time to learn new skills and try things you never have before, for instance I have tried ballroom and swing dancing!

As I have mentioned I love to travel – highlights to date have included Brazil, Thailand and Kenya. I am hoping to go to Cuba and Costa Rica this summer! I also love socialising with my friends and going to the theatre.

City  life
Leeds is a fantastic vibrant city with great nightlife to be enjoyed. I particularly like the German Christmas market and then it is only a short train ride to York to enjoy the Christmas market there as well!

My placement in the House of Commons
During my sandwich year, I was an Inquiry Manager for the International Development Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee at the House of Commons.

The application form was competency based as was the interview and I was lucky enough to be successful at interview.

As Inquiry Manager for select committees, I managed three inquiries on the future of CDC (the UK’s development finance institution), the environmental implications of UK aid and the decision to end UK bilateral aid to Burundi.

My role entailed managing the process from start to finish which included drafting the terms of reference for the inquiry, putting out a call for evidence, reviewing the evidence we received, drafting briefs for the MPs and then drafting the final report for the MPs to agree. I also organised and attended a visit to Aberdeen and East Kilbride with the committee.
On an average day I would review the evidence that came in for inquiries and then spend my time drafting briefs and reports for the committees. Whenever there was a committee meeting I attended which was really interesting – I heard evidence from some very well respected academics, Gordon Brown and the Secretary of State for International Development which was very cool.

One highlight of the year was attending the speech Barack Obama gave when he came to the UK and addressed the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I met him afterwards and shook his hand!

But the real highlights for me was seeing some of the recommendations I drafted agreed to by government (for example there will now be an explicit environmental strategy behind UK aid), seeing my reports be agreed with minimal amendments and watching the MPs debate the report I drafted on the future of CDC, which is the UK’s development finance institution.
I have learned an inordinate amount from my placement and have made many professional contacts. It has helped me to ground my academic learning into a policy context and to consider issues on both an academic level and their real world application. I would love to return to work for parliament or work on development policy in future.

My future
I  am currently applying to the fast track civil service and for masters degrees and waiting (not very patiently) to hear back. I am very keen to pursue a career in development but I am not sure what form this will take yet – watch this space!

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