- Course: MA International Relations
- Nationality: Malawian
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am from the continent of Africa, from a country popularly known as the warm heart of Africa, Malawi. I have lived in this country all my life such that the only time I got to move out for a long time was when I was coming here to Leeds. I did my four year undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College. I was very interested in a module called 'Regional Integration' which opened me up to international relations issues and gave me a desire to pursue further studies in International Relations.
What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?
Firstly was the content in the course I wanted thus International Relations. One of the components I was looking for in this course was foreign policy and Leeds offered me a whole module called American Foreign Policy. Of particular interest to me was to have an understanding of how foreign policy impacts on developing countries and the course offered me both theoretical and practical knowledge on this.
Secondly was due to my career aspirations of one day undertaking diplomatic work. The course provides a good understanding of interstate relations which helped me locate myself as regards the specific work I would want to engage in.
I was also motivated by the way this course is structured at Leeds. The combination of seminars and Lecturers gave me a sign that I would be able to fully participate in the course work and share my views and also learn from the views of other students.
Before applying, I had searched a number of universities and Leeds promised to be supportive, friendly and an accommodative university considering the diversity of international students that they accept. And truly, that’s what I found when I got here. Having done my primary, secondary and undergraduate studies in one country, I was not exposed to any diversity in culture. I was thus very biased towards Leeds for this reason. I was keen to learn from different cultures but also how to live and relate with people from different backgrounds.
Additionally, the learning facilities that were profiled on the Leeds website were top class. Because of that I felt my studies will be easier and in depth in the sense that there are facilities to help students such as the skills at library, the Students Union. I felt that would give me a smooth transition from what I had back home to what was presented at Leeds.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
The fact that it covers a wide range of subjects and it's not limited to one area. You find issues of the environment, development, conflict. This helped me to gain knowledge in a number of issues and focus them towards my area of specialization. I feel with this course and with the way the University structured it, I can do anything career wise.
The course also focuses on current affairs which makes it more interesting. For instance in one of the classes we would have debates and discussions on current affairs concerning USA and North Korea, the Zimbabwe situation of having a new president etc. All that enabled me to apply the knowledge I had acquired to current affairs but also to understand the implications of some of these current affairs to the International System. This helped me be up to date with current affairs. As an international relations student, an understanding of current affairs is very vital and the course makes room to include some of these issues. The more I get to discuss these affairs, the more passionate I would get about this course and the more I desired to have others come join such an area of study.
What did you think of your course?
Honestly, the whole package of International Relations is quiet interesting and full of opportunities to engage with the professors but also other students. The seminars are the most exciting as they give me an opportunity to engage with the ideas of other students but also to share my perspective on issues within the international system.
Another exciting aspect is the provision of guest speakers by the department on issues relating to international relations. This gave me a picture of what other are doing with the course outside the university but also the issues to look forward to contributing with the knowledge I gained in the course.
What do you think of the facilities?
I think it's very important to work from a position of rest and not pressure and the University of Leeds provided just that for me. Talk of the libraries, every resource that is required in any of my modules, I find it in the library. I have never experienced any pressure as regards finding information, the library has it all. The set-up of the library was very thought of as it accommodates all types of students. Some like to study with a little bit of noise; some like me, silence is the only sound we want to hear when studying and the library has got space for all kinds.
The lecture rooms are well lit, with enough space and comfortable chairs to last you for a two hour session without a backache. I believe these seemingly little things like lighting of the room, space in the room which University of Leeds considered are what sets it apart as one of the best.
How do you find the student support?
Student support was the very first thing that I recognised when I arrived on campus last year in September. In fact, that was how I would describe University of Leeds in my very first few weeks 'the University full of support'. Being an international student, first time in the UK and first time at the university, the last thing you would want to experience is not knowing where to go for your registration, or being late for a class because you were not sure where a particular building is. The campus is huge. I did not have to experience that because of the support I received in my first week of arrival. I had people take me around campus to show me where everything is, I had people guiding me through the registration process and any other thing that I needed help with.
Additionally, there is so much support with my studies. One of the supports I find very important with my studies is the Skills@Library facility, and the numerous workshops they conduct such as presentations skill workshop, academic writing workshops among others. All these help me with my course work as I write essays and make class presentations.
The allocation of personal tutors to students to help with your day to day life is also a plus to a student. It shows how University of Leeds is concerned not only about your grades but also your wellbeing as you work towards achieving that grade.
Overall, the support is excellent and very important and it’s everywhere.
Have you been involved in any extra-curricular activities?
There are activities ranging from volunteering to trips within the UK to belonging to clubs. The clubs and societies cover different areas and so one would easily fit in one or two. If you love hiking, dancing, cooking, debates, travelling, there is a club for you. If you also like to engage in faith discussions, there are a number of faith groups one can join.
I have done volunteering and it was fun and exciting to do it with other students as you get to know each other more. I did volunteering at Oxfam and it was also eye opening to learn more about Oxfam and the work they are doing in communities.
What would you say about Leeds as a city?
It is a beautiful city with a good location. From Leeds it is easy to go to other cities as it is located around the central part of the UK. Leeds has nice and friendly people which make it easy for someone especially new to manoeuvre around the city knowing that you can ask around for places you want to go to.
Just as the University, the city is also diverse with people from Africa, Asia, Australia and that adds a certain flavour to the city seeing people from different nationalities living together, working together and doing business. That shows that it is not discriminatory and anyone from anywhere can flourish in Leeds.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
Words are not enough to show you a picture of the University of Leeds and specifically the MA in International Relations course. What I have shared is best experienced when you are here physically. And I promise you, you will not regret. Beyond being one of the best schools, and I must add the best course in my opinion, the course offers you a great opportunity for your own personal development. So instead of waiting to read another student's experience next time, come and let someone read your own next year.
What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course?
To go back to my country Malawi and be the change I want to see. I intend to advance my career aspirations by doing some work in the diplomatic and development field.