Ruaa Hariri

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a PhD research student in the School of Education. I arrived in Leeds in July 2017, as a Saudi student sponsored by my country. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from the organization which I had worked at. As an English language teacher at King Abdulaziz University (KAU), I have taught General English to foundation year students since 2008. There, I had started to develop as a researcher when I decided to study Linguistics at the Department of European Languages, where I had previously earned my BA in English Literature and Linguistics. I have to admit, managing both a career and an education degree while being a mother was not easy, and here I am doing it all over again!

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

Working in Academia has become a passion for me. As I have been aspiring for many years to become a professional researcher, I have been evaluating research programmes for some time. Leeds University has been on my list of universities to study at for many years. From the students I have met, I can say that the TESOL programme at Leeds is quite unique. This motivated me to consider applying for a PhD within the educational domain, which prepares you with the essentials skills for becoming a good researcher, and research educator as well.

What is it that makes you passionate about this area of study?

Languages have been an intriguing force to me, which I have been keen on understanding for quite some time now. As a native bilingual in both the Arabic and English Language, I understand and relate to learners in numerous ways. By authentically embracing ones cultural identity, language learning and teaching could build bridges between nations.  I aspire to bring a contribution to the language learning community in my home town Jeddah, as I desire to make the world better understand Saudi learners. 

Please tell us about your research topic…

My research topic revolves around the concept of Assessment Literacy. I am looking to explore EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers’ perceptions of assessment literacies and what teacher knowledge and classroom practices are important to support effective literacy teaching. The challenges that teachers encounter in teaching English language skills in Saudi higher education context will be investigated. The study also aims to look into EFL learners’ attitude towards learning English, their challenges, and the practices that are important to support effective literacy acquisition for their future academic progress.

How has your experience been at the University so far?

I have been very fortunate and blessed to have had a positive experience at the University so far. The educational atmosphere is inspiring, the supervisors are experts in their field, and there is good support provided by administrators and PGR groups.

What would you say about the learning and research facilities?

The University of Leeds has good learning facilities. There are several libraries on campus, and they are abundant with resources. Their online service is superb as well. The School of Education has friendly staff, and your inquisitions would usually receive prompt attention. The University also has one of the best student unions in the country, with plenty of societies to join and events happening throughout the year.

How would you describe the research environment in the School? What would you say about the support you receive?

I am content with the support provided at the University. My supervisors have been very kind, and they are personally and professionally outstanding. The research environment is richly inspired, especially when it comes to education. There are visiting speakers from both the UK and Europe, and in-house seminars through-out the year, serving to enrich our minds and hearts.

Do you take part in any activities outside of your study? 

I have been taking part in the Education Discussion Group, as an organizer, and for facilitating seminars on the topic of ‘Education around the World’, and ‘Your vision for Education’. I have to say that in such a short amount of time, I have learned about education systems around the world, which has helped me reflect upon the one back home in Saudi Arabia. In my free time, I enjoy staying active by going to the Edge, Leeds University’s very own gym, which even Olympic players train at!

What do you like to do outside of studying?

When I am not too busy studying, I enjoy painting, cooking, and travelling with my family to explore the beautiful nature of Yorkshire and beyond.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a very vibrant and green city, with lovely parks wherever you go. It has a strategic location in the country, and travel to any city is never too long. It is a vibrant and multicultural city, and people are very kind to students. It’s also called ‘ Child-Friendly Leeds’, which makes it perfect for families, as the quality of support provided for children by the local authority is very good.

What would you say to someone considering a research degree in the School?

I would definitely say ‘Go for it!’ Make sure you really enjoy doing research, and that you are passionate about your topic. A PhD requires a pretty long commitment, lots of reading, writing, and a good attitude for learning. You will develop gradually and progressively as a researcher, so be patient and enjoy the journey!

What are your plans once you have completed your PhD?

Upon completing my degree, I aim at expanding my research circle and joining research projects and perhaps collaborating with researchers from different countries. I would also like to go for a post-doc one day, to enrich my career even further.