Jenna Stewardson, studying BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies with parliamentary placement.

Jenna Stewardson

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am originally from Grimsby, a small northern town on the Lincolnshire coast. I have always had an interest in current affairs, and I think that this stems from growing up in a household where the early evening news was always on at 6 o’clock.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at A-level, but after flicking through my local sixth form college’s prospectus, my mum suggested that Government and Politics might be right up my street. Since then, my passion for politics has grown exponentially, influencing not only my decision to study it at university, but also to join the Liberal Democrats after the 2015 General Election.

Outside of politics I have a keen interest in the arts, and enjoy going to the theatre as much as possible. I have loved my time in Leeds so far, as it is a developing, vibrant city which contrasts entirely to my hometown.

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

During a discussion with my A-Level Politics teacher, he mentioned a degree which included a year’s internship in Westminster, working for an MP. I later discovered that this was offered at Leeds, and decided that it was the course for me, because of my particular interest in British Politics and the career opportunities I thought it would create.

After attending an open day, I knew Leeds was my first choice – both the staff and the facilities on campus were exceptional, and I loved the atmosphere of the city as a whole. 

What do you think of your course?

So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my course. It’s fantastic that the School of Politics and International Studies gives you a wide range of preliminary knowledge in your first year, through modules across all three disciplines; Politics, International Relations and International Development.

In my second year, I have been given the freedom to choose which topics I would like to specialise in, and some of my most enjoyable modules so far have been on the history of the Conservative Party and the workings of the UK Parliament.

Probably the highlight of my course so far was a seminar with the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. It is unique opportunities like this which make me so glad I chose Leeds.

How would you describe the guidance you've received?

The support offered my staff in School of Politics and International Studies is second to none. I have utilised staff’s academic support hours in almost every assessed piece of work that I have submitted, and really feel it makes a difference to my results to have guidance along the way.

Staff are always available to give students additional support if needed, and are often willing to go the extra mile, for example, holding Skype meetings over the Christmas break to discuss assessments.

There is also fantastic support from non-academic staff within the School, and the events organised by peer mentors and school reps are always highly informative, especially for first year students.

What do you think of the facilities?

The University campus is equipped with fantastic facilities for students. The newly refurbished Student Union has everything you need, including bars, cafes, shops and even an opticians!

The on-campus gym is equipped with state-of-the-art exercise machines and has been used by Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee. The academic facilities on campus are also excellent; there are four academic libraries, each with their own character, from the modern Laidlaw Library to the Brotherton Library which is steeped in history.

Tell us about your parliamentary placement.

Next year I will be completing a parliamentary placement as part of my course. This will involve working in the Westminster office of an MP for nine months, undertaking tasks such as managing the MPs diary, speechwriting and responding to the queries of constituents.

Students on BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies also have the option to complete the first three months of their placement in the Canadian Parliament, combining study abroad and a work placement.

How did you get involved with Leeds Loves Social Science?

I first heard about Leeds Loves via an email sent by the student support officer in the School, advertising a job as a student ambassador who would go into schools and encourage students to consider studying their subject at university.

I filled in an application online, and was invited to an interview, in which I had to give a mock presentation and answer a series of questions. Shortly after the interview, I received an email informing me I had got the job, and so far, my experience has been to attend a training session for ambassadors. However, I am looking forward to undertaking my first school visit in January.

I think Leeds Loves will help me develop my communication skills, through experience of giving presentations to potential students. I also think that being an ambassador will provide me with time management, leadership and team-working skills, all of which are vital for any career.

Have you been involved in any extra-curricular activities?

In my first year at university, I joined Leeds Young Liberals, as I am a member of the national Liberal Democrats, but wanted to get more involved in student politics. As part of this society, I attended some great socials and campaign days, the highlight being the party’s Spring Conference last March.

I have also made some great friends through my membership of this society, and at the end of last academic year, I was delighted to be elected Secretary for 2017-18. I am thoroughly enjoying my time on committee so far, and I think it is a great opportunity for development alongside my studies.