Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Saoirse Townshend

BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies | Fourth Year

Photo of Saoirse Townshend

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background etc?
I'm from Manchester. I didn't take a gap year because I knew I would be doing a four year course and didn’t want to be too old when I left university! The A-levels I took were Sociology, English Literature and Religious Studies (Theology and Ethics).

Why did you join the POLIS Student Ambassador team?
I think that Widening Participation is extremely important in universities, particularly for a Politics department who should be first to fight for equal access to higher education. I wanted to help young people from all backgrounds to have the opportunity to go to university. Being part of the Student Ambassador Team is an important step which can only be properly realised when supported by a comprehensive bursary scheme since financial constraints play a huge part in restricting access to university.

Did you have anyone to talk to and support you before applying to University?
Luckily my parents are both academics so they were able to advise me on where to go and where was best for my subject. My school wasn’t very helpful but if yours isn’t either then there is plenty of information on the internet and in national newspapers.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I knew that Leeds had a course (PPS) which gave students the opportunity to go to Washington DC and Westminster to do work placements in Government. Having a practical year abroad gave me first-hand experience of how political systems worked in real life.

What do you think of your course so far – what aspects of the course have you enjoyed the most or are looking forward to the most?
I have mostly taken theory modules which have enabled me to use philosophy and apply it to current practical debates. For example, in the feminism module we applied feminist theory to issues such as rape, prostitution, pornography and heterosexuality. Of course, the year abroad was definitely the best bit – meeting new people, working in political institutions on policy work and travelling America was so much fun!

Is University really that different from School?
Yes it's very different! If you live away from home then of course you have to get used to looking after yourself and perhaps have more freedom if your parents are strict! In terms of work, at school you’re much more spoon-fed, whereas at university you have to work independently and set your own hours of work. 

What do you think of life on campus?
Leeds University has the best of both worlds – as there is a campus there are always people around to meet up with and everything’s near by. When it gets too much town, Headingley and Hyde Park are not far away. There are also loads of clubs and societies to join which are fun and a great way to make new friends.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
There is a massive range of music, sports, theatre, religious, political, volunteering and even drinking societies to join. You’d be hard-pressed to find something that doesn’t interest you. I’ve been a member of STAR (Student Action for Refugees) for 3 years and really enjoyed volunteering at the English Conversation Classes. Meeting refugees and asylum seekers has had a profound effect on me – sometimes we have a laugh and sometimes it’s incredibly sad. It’s also a great way of meeting like-minded people. Some of them have become my best friends.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to University?
Think hard about where you want to go and what you want to study. Do lots of research and try and go on as many university open days as possible.

Any top tips before starting University?
Enjoy home! Eat lots and have fun with your old friends.

What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course?
I want to be a human rights barrister so I will be doing a law conversion course after university in London.

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