Laren Jones, MA Global Development and Education student

Lauren Jones

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Wiltshire and after enjoying languages at school I applied to study for a BA in French and Spanish at Leeds. I spent my year abroad in Spain working as an English language assistant in a primary school, which sparked my interest in education and the use of languages in education in particular. After graduating I completed an internship at UNICEF in Geneva, which I loved. It was an exciting time as the Sustainable Development Goals were being launched, so my role mostly involved developing knowledge management materials related to UNICEF’s programmes and the SDGs. The experience gave me a valuable exposure to the world of Development and made me keen to learn more!

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

The Global Development course at Leeds appealed to me as there was an opportunity to choose a specialist pathway, allowing me to combine my interests in development with my passion for education. I also had a fantastic experience here at undergraduate level and couldn’t imagine studying for an MA anywhere other than Leeds!

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

My experience studying languages broadened my knowledge of other cultures and societies, but I particularly wanted to learn more about the inequalities facing the Global South. Development can sometimes be a challenging area of study, especially as the debates we have are not just academic but very real and help us to understand what is happening in the world right now.  What I love about this course is the way in which it helps you to see the bigger picture and apply academic theories to real issues. It allows you to think critically about the work of development organisations to ask what is being done well, what can be done differently and what can be done better.

What did you think of your course?

I have really enjoyed the course so far – the content is varied and it’s great that we are able to choose from a wide range of modules to suit our own interests. I can’t really believe how much I’ve learned in such a short space of time! I found the Education in Development module fascinating, particularly because it challenged some of the widely-held assumptions about common approaches to education in development. This module has inspired me to explore education issues further in my dissertation.

The core module, Global Inequalities and Development, gives a fantastic overview of the key issues in Development studies and sets the foundation for further study in any of the areas that specifically interest you. The module is taught by various members of the Global Development teaching team over the two semesters, who are enthusiastic lecturers and often draw on their own research from local contexts as part of their teaching.

What do you think of the facilities?

The learning facilities at the University are impressive and improving all the time.  The Edward Boyle Library has a level dedicated to postgraduate students and staff, which is a great place to study.  There are bookable group and individual study rooms so if you need to prepare for a presentation with course-mates or concentrate on your own then there is a dedicated space for that. The Skills@Library support service is also really useful– they provide online resources to help with referencing and writing techniques, as well as running regular academic skills workshops.

How do you find the student support in the School?

The academic staff are really friendly and approachable – they have weekly office hours which is helpful for any questions that you might have about a particular topic or upcoming assessment. The Student Support Office are also very happy to help with any issues such as timetabling, module changes or assessments.

Have you been involved in any extra-curricular activities?

The Practical Initiatives Network (PIN) society puts on fantastic talks related to Global Development issues and I have really enjoyed attending these events – for example, earlier this year they arranged a Skype call with an NGO from Uganda who told us about their work on child protection. I also volunteer with Student Action for Refugees (STAR), an amazing society that runs weekly conversation classes for refugees and asylum seekers in and around Leeds.  On campus, The Edge sports centre is a brilliant facility which has enabled me to continue some of my favourite hobbies: yoga, pilates and Zumba!

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a fantastic place to live and work – there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes in music, art, food and lots more.  It’s great that the campus is so close to the city centre, the University feels very much a part of the vibrant buzz of the city.

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

If you are interested in international development and would like to pursue a career in this area, I would say that an MA in Global Development at Leeds is the perfect course.  From the first week of teaching, I became very engaged with the subject and met lots of friendly people who shared my interest in development issues.

What are your plans for the future?

My dream would be to work for a non-governmental organisation, ideally in programmes or policy, but at this stage I’m not sure where the Masters will take me!  I would also love to work abroad and obtain some practical experience of development programmes in the field.