Catriona web

Catriona Duncan

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I completed my BA in English at Royal Holloway, University of London and took the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Sydney. After I finished my first degree, I completed an expedition to India with Raleigh International and did internships at different child-youth focused charities. I was fortunate enough to work in central government on secondment following my time with The British Youth Council.

Four years passed before I decided to pursue further study as a mature student in a very different discipline to the arts. I took comfort that I gained insight into childhood studies when I studied a module on the sociology of childhood and youth at the University of Sydney. This actually influenced my decision to study what was then, the new MA in Childhood Studies and move from London to Leeds.

How would you describe your experience at the University?

As expected the year went far too quickly; it was intense and mentally challenging. In hindsight, I wished I studied my course part-time so I had more time to breathe between my completing my course assignments and doing things on or off campus. Nevertheless, I managed to juggle my studies with some of the other activities I did: being the Wellbeing Representative for my Halls of Residence, a Student Host, running in the Lead LUU Leadership Race and volunteering for IntoUniversity. Did I take on too much? Perhaps! I wouldn’t change it; I loved my time at Leeds.

What elements would you describe as the most enjoyable?

I loved studying, but being a Student Host and volunteering for IntoUniversity was one of the most rewarding things particularly as there is a growing emphasis on widening access to university for disadvantaged students.

How would you describe the help and guidance given by the staff within the School?

Excellent; staff at the School of Education were always willing to offer guidance with assessments and later advise me on future plans

What did you think of your course? How has this helped in your chosen career?

I loved the course. The lecturers leading the MA Childhood Studies are among some of the best in their field. I particularly enjoyed learning about the origins of the field and in particular the sociology of childhood. Equally, the module: children and young people: citizenship, participation and social justice, was insightful and offered a new perspective on children’s agency. I had the option to study an elective module which explored the impact of using digital technology through childhood. I wish I could go back to study the new electives on offer; it sounds exciting!

The breadth of the course allowed me to explore new areas such as youth engagement, agency and digital technology. While I didn’t haven’t a career path in mind after I finished my course, I went back to the charity sector, and found a job with an organisation which aims to encourage disadvantaged young people in London to be active and participate in indoor or on water rowing.

Please tell us about your development since graduating from the university and how do you think your time at Leeds has helped with this?

I mentioned earlier about my elective module on digital technology. As part of the module, the assessment involved creating a Prezi. Prior to the course, I had never heard of Prezi; so I the assessment was challenging. Since then, I’ve embraced Prezi and now design all my presentations using Prezi instead of PowerPoint! In some cases, I’ve taught my colleagues how to use it. Inspired by the different modules I did and widening access to university, I’ve recently started a blog aimed at helping Generation Z through their youth.

Please tell us about your current role/research. What are your plans for the future?

Recently I moved from the charity sector to central government. I provide admin support to senior Directors in my directorate. This involves learning different acronyms, lots of printing and helping to make their job easier during the transition from being part of the civil service to becoming a public body. I am hoping this will a good foundation towards becoming a successful Private Secretary or Diary Manager for a Government Minister in the future.

What would be your top tips in terms of careers advice for current students?

If you want to make the most of your time at Leeds, get involved with a few societies and do your Leeds for Life; Be a Student Host and start building a LinkedIn profile if you haven’t already. Don’t wait until your final year to consider your career options. Use the careers service and attend networking events to meet potential recruiters throughout your second and third year. If you can afford to, take the option to study abroad.

By doing all of this, you will gain transferable skills and solid evidence required to support future job applications and interviews.