Iulian Andrei Biris
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in the beautiful Romanian town of Sibiu, the Capital of Culture in 2007. I like dancing and drama, to be an active citizen and to volunteer, and I still think that I could change the world. Even though I have studied natural sciences in high school, my guilty pleasures were geography, especially political geography, history and foreign languages. During high school, I had the opportunity to be elected in the local and county structures of Students’ Council and therefore I could advocate for students’ rights. All these experiences led to me studying International Relations.
What motivated you to apply to study your chosen course and why did you chose Leeds?
There were many reasons I chose to study International Relations at Leeds. I had a friend studying the course already, so that gave me some insights when deciding. Furthermore, the School offers a wide range of modules, the academic staff are professional and because of the research clusters that raise my interest: Terrorism and Political Violence Association and the European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
I chose University of Leeds because it is one of the top universities in the United Kingdom, because you have a lot of opportunities both on and off campus here. A big appeal was also how multicultural Leeds is too.
What do you think of your course, have there been any particular highlights for you?
Even though I come to the end of my second year I am still amazed, as I continue to learn more and more. I appreciate the fact that the modules are designed so that you can develop skills such as research and critical thinking and because you are stimulated to work independently. At the same time, another advantage is that the emphasis is on the quality, not the quantity. The syllabus is aimed at analysing current phenomena and even the assessments put an emphasis on the practical part and requires you to develop creative problem solving. I still remember I enjoyed writing a constitution for a democratic China, to analyse if it is in the interest of the US to fight ISIS, or to write policy recommendation with regards to the Palestinian refugees.
Another thing that I like about my degree is the possibility to choose my own modules, according to my interests and the opportunity we have to choose discovery modules, which might be out of your area of study. This is good because you have the opportunity to take a multidisciplinary approach. In my case, I have previously been enrolled to a German beginner module, to a module about sustainability at School of Earth and Environment and to International Law, at School of Law.
How would you describe the help and guidance provided by the staff within the School?
The academic staff at POLIS are well trained, not only for research but also for teaching. One advantage is that the modules are offered by specialised people, who are probably worldwide acknowledged for their research. I have always been helped by tutors, with regards to assessments and the aspects I did not understand well. I appreciate the fact that the academics are helpful and they even encourage you to go to their office hours or send e-mails about potential unclear things.
How would you describe the facilities at the University?
University of Leeds campus is so big and there are still places I don’t know yet. The modern libraries offer a propitious environment for studying and plenty of resources, both hard copies and online material. I like the fact that the University is well equipped. There are lots of IT clusters, you can even borrow laptops, the buildings are quite modern and there is the desire of continual development.
Have you been involved in extra-curricular activities, such as societies, summer placements etc?
I have started the new Romanian Society, since there has not been one here already. The idea was to promote Romanian culture on campus. At the same time, I am part of Practical Initiatives Network Student Society. Its aim is to promote international development issues and to try to tackle some of these issues. My role as a Graphic Designer was to create promotional materials for the society’s events. At the same time, I am a member of R2P Student Coalition, a group of students passionate about researching Responsibility to Protect and which organises informational and awareness talks. My role within this group is to maintain the social media.
During my free time, I also had the opportunity to work casually through Joblink. They have a wide range of jobs for students, many of them unusual, but really fun, such as a simulated patient.
So far, probably the most interesting activity I have been engaged in is the Intercultural Ambassador programme. I was selected, alongside other fellow University of Leeds students with different cultural backgrounds to attend workshops meant to develop our cultural awareness and inclusion skills. Furthermore, we also had the duty to implement team projects aiming to increase intercultural awareness within a certain group. My project, which was in partnership with Students into Schools programme, aimed at challenging the misconceptions of primary school children about certain cultures. Therefore, my colleagues and I managed to visit two primary schools and run an interactive activity about the cultures each of us come from.
More recently, I have been chosen a Culture Rep within Leeds University Union. My role will be to supervise the Culture societies and to represent them.
Any other comments you would like to make?
If I was to choose the course and the university I wanted to study at again, I would still choose BA International Relations at the University of Leeds!