Lydia Gilbert, MSc Criminal Justice and Criminology student smiling in front of a Christmas tree

Lydia Gilbert

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I have a slightly mixed background, I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa between the ages of 3 to 16 years old. I then moved back to Newcastle upon Tyne at 16 to complete my A levels. My academic interests are quite diverse- I deciding to study Sociology, History, Maths and Physics at A level before doing my BA in Criminology and Psychology in Leeds. My mixed background developed my personality quite drastically, I am passionate about many things and enjoy interacting and learning from new people.  I am a positive individual, one that loves change, and thrives on new challenges.

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

I decided to apply for MSc Criminal Justice and Criminology, as I had developed my passion for criminology during my undergraduate degree. However, unlike my undergraduate I wanted to understand the inner workings of the Criminal Justice System. I wanted to understand the influence of criminological theory on policy and the treatment of suspects. The largest influence for me however, was the fact that Leeds offered a new module called ‘Rethinking Policing through Research’. My goal is to work within the police as a Detective and this module solidified my decision to apply to the University of Leeds. Although I looked at other universities, Leeds was my first choice and was the only university I applied to. 

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

My passion for this area of study stems directly from my childhood, I saw extreme poverty on a daily basis in South Africa and crime prevention was an integral part of my socialisation. When I moved back to the UK, I realised that this was not a global phenomenon. Furthermore, studying history and sociology made me realise that the rates of crime were directly linked to governmental decisions, poverty, cultural beliefs and historical events. I therefore wanted to study criminological theory, so I could effectively work within the criminal justice system. 

What did you think of your course?

I love my course, I think it is challenging but exciting. There is never a dull lecture or discussion, which means I feel constantly engaged in the subject matter. My two favourite modules have been Criminological Theory and Rethinking Policing through Research 1 & 2. I enjoy Criminological Theory as it builds upon the theories that I learnt about during my undergraduate by integrating contemporary theory and discusses the history of the theories. I enjoy Rethinking Policing through Research, as we are taught by different lecturers and guest lecturers on a near weekly basis. Although I did not study the police in my undergraduate, I find it is exciting to learn about each lecturer’s personal research. The lecturers are always passionate and have a wealth of knowledge on their subject.

The element I look forward to the most however, is undertaking my dissertation. I applied and was accepted to do one of the collaborative dissertations that are set up by the university. My dissertation will research how to reduce alcohol-related violence in the night-time economy in Leeds, through qualitative interviews with police officers and SaferLeeds.

What would you say about the learning facilities?

There is not a bad word that can be said about the learning facilities at the University of Leeds or the Law School. I have spent far too many hours in the postgraduate library floor in Edward Boyle Library, which is indispensable for postgraduate students. There is always a free space and has a lovely café downstairs. The Law School has couches and tables and chairs on the ground floor which I use to socialise and do work before/between lectures. Furthermore, my lecturers are always helpful with queries and are passionate about their subjects.

How do you find the student support in the School?

The student support is fantastic, although I haven’t used many of their services, I have used the careers team. I have used the University’s career services and the Law’s careers service, both have which been extremely helpful.

Have you been involved in any extra-curricular activities?

There are a huge range of activities for students to get involved in, however I have not done so. Between working, volunteering, my degree, the gym and socialising with friends, I have not felt that I have the time to get involved unfortunately.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Personally, I believe Leeds is one of the best cities in the world. I have worked, volunteered, met new people, made new friends, I have developed my academic interests and cannot say a bad word about it. There is diverse nightlife and ample day time activities. One of my favourite aspects of Leeds is the availability of parks and greenery. Hyde Park’s park and Roundhay Park are two of my favourite locations in Leeds, from watching Guy Fawkes fireworks, to sunbathing during the summer, to my daily walk to university these parks have become a central part of my experience. Furthermore, the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District are only a short distance away, I have used these as meeting locations when meeting up with family or as simple day trips away.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

This course is a fantastic opportunity to develop your academic interests, either as a stepping stone to a PhD or prior to starting a career. I have loved my time here and so will you. However, although I love the course, it is a lot of hard work. It would not be possible to ‘wing it’, as each lecture and seminar requires preparation. I enjoy the preparation, as it forces seminar discussion and engagement, which I believe is an integral part of learning.

What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course?

Ultimately, I want to join the police and become a detective, however I would like to work outside of the police before I join. Through informed conversations with officers, I believe having external experience will make me a better police officer in the future. I don’t know yet what I want to do before I join the police. However, I do not believe this is a bad thing, I don’t think any life experience is bad experience and so I am excited to see what the next stage of my life holds.