- Course: BA Politics and Parliamentary Studies
- Year of graduation: 2017
- Nationality: British
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I lived abroad as a child, so often the only English TV I would see was BBC News - maybe that’s why I become so interested in Politics. My family came back to the UK when I was 9 and since then I have lived in North London.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I’ve always enjoyed coming to Leeds as a city as my Dad was at University up here and often took us back to see his old haunts. I was mainly interested in Leeds because of the year in industry in my chosen course. I thought that the idea of working in Parliament sounded really exciting and I liked the fact that I would be graduating with a year’s work experience.
Looking around Open Days did feel a bit tedious, but I actually had a really nice day when I came to visit Leeds. I loved that fact that Leeds was a campus university, but was also close to the city centre - not isolated in the middle of nowhere. I enjoyed the sample lecture on the politics of video games, this was something which other universities hadn’t offered and I thought that it was a really good way of showing prospective students what life at Leeds might be like. I had lunch at the Students' Union with my friends and came away genuinely excited about the prospect of university, instead of feeling nervous.
What do you think of your course?
The politics course at Leeds has been brilliant. A big part of this is because I have been able to take modules in international development and international relations, as well a French discovery module on top of my politics modules. POLIS offers its students a really wide range of courses, so I have definitely felt like I have had a lot of freedom to choose modules that I find particularly interesting.
During the latter part of my year in industry much of the work that I was doing centred on Brexit and foreign affairs, so it was great to be able to come back to Leeds and study courses which built up my understanding of these issues. This year I have chosen modules on the politics of national identity in the UK, crisis diplomacy, British foreign policy and political philosophy on the ideas of multiculturalism and community. The things that I have learnt in these courses have helped me to better understand the big political issues of the moment, and I am sure that I will use this knowledge after I graduate.
One of the best things about POLIS is the events that they organise for students, the staff here are so clever that it is really interesting to hear what they have to say about current issues. Last term they organised an event on Brexit, attended by hundreds of students, where we were able to hear from staff about some of the aspects of the issues that I personally hadn’t really thought about before (while enjoying beer and free food). These included the impact on international aid spending and a different ways of thinking about voters who have been left behind by politicians.
How would you describe the guidance you've received?
I have always found my tutors to be really helpful, both inside and outside seminars. Office hours are a really good way to see your tutors to get help with an essay plan, or clarify something that you haven’t quite understood. The support staff in POLIS are also great. We have a dedicated careers advisor, who has given me advice on work placements and helped me to look over my CV in the past. In my second year some of us worked to put on “Behind the News” discussion workshops for other students, one of the staff in the office was really supportive with this, helping us to advertise it, booking rooms and coming along to the sessions themselves. We were really lucky that they were so keen to get involved. The student support staff have also been really kind to me while I have been here and I know that my friends have also found their help to be very important during difficult periods.
What do you think of the facilities?
The facilities at Leeds are really great! Sometimes it feels like there is constant building work, but this is because they are always investing in our facilities. While I have been at Leeds they have built one library and refurbished another. All their desks now have plug sockets and it’s nice to take a break with your friends in the library cafés to break up the day.
The POLIS building has also been refurbished, giving us more study and social spaces, as well a computer cluster with touch screen computers. All of the lecture theatres have cameras and microphones so that lectures can be recorded, this is really useful for revision or if you have to catch up on a week that you have missed.
Tell us about your work placement abroad.
Last year I spent the first half of my year as an intern in the United States Senate working for the Senator for Rhode Island. Living in Washington, DC was an incredible experience and taught me so much about not only American politics but the things that I appreciate about the UK.
During my 4 months in the States I made lots of new friends, who I have kept in touch with. I was very lucky to do some amazing things including visiting the White House (twice); having breakfast in the Senator’s dining room and passing George W Bush in one of the corridors of the US Capitol. The novelty of walking past the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and the Capitol building on my way to work never quite wore off, nor did riding on the underground Senate train several times a day. The highlight of my time however, had to be seeing President Obama address the service to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
Tell us about your parliamentary placement.
From January to September I was working in Westminster for a high profile member of the Shadow Cabinet. I was very lucky that Leeds were able to sort out this placement for me because of their longstanding links with a number of MPs.
Leeds interns have a really good reputation in the House of Commons and I was surprised by how many people I met had heard of the Parliamentary Studies pathaway course at Leeds. Political offices in the UK are much smaller, so I was given far more responsibilities than in the US. As well as writing to constituents and taking notes on meetings, I accompanied my MP on various visits including the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, where I achieved my goal of being “papped” at the infamous Daily Mirror party.
I was working in Parliament during the EU referendum, which meant that it often felt like I was watching history being made. Whether that was on board the Labour ‘battle bus’, at an official count on the night itself, or in Parliament the next Monday morning. Parliament was hard work, but also brilliant fun. I have come away with not only good career contacts, but close friends. When I graduate I hope to return to Westminster and I am confident that the experience I have gained during my year in industry will be invaluable when I come to apply for jobs.
Have you been involved in extra-curricular activities?
In the first year of my degree I completed a 3 week placement with Leeds City Council. POLIS have a link with the council and a few times a year 3-4 students are able to gain some work experience there. When I arrived I was expecting to be doing fairly mundane tasks and making a lot of coffee - this was far from the case! Within my first week I had completed a number of briefing papers, press releases and was already starting work on a speech to be read out in the full council meeting. The best bit of the placement was hearing three of my speeches read out by councillors, including one on child poverty in Leeds that I had worked particularly hard on.
Since first year I have been a member of student action for refugees, in second year I helped to coordinate a Wednesday afternoon conversation class and this year I am their campaigns chair. I help to organise fundraisers and other events as well as volunteering at a homework club for refugee children in the city centre. One of my friends recently approached me to ask if I wanted to help out with their radio show, so I now feature regularly on ‘The Brexit Club’ on Leeds Student Radio to talk about the latest Brexit news (hopefully in a vaguely entertaining way).
I have also started to enjoy sport since coming to Leeds; something I would never have said while I was at school. There was gym in my halls in first year so my friends and I would go together. This year I am a member of Yoga society, go swimming regularly and even manage to play a bit of squash. The sports teams at Leeds are brilliant, but there are also so many other enjoyable ways for students to keep fit and healthy.
Do you have any other comments you'd like to make?
Humanities subjects, like politics, often have few contact hours but at Leeds I have never felt bored, because there has been so much more to my university experience than my course alone.
Going to the library is important and Leeds does have some good libraries, but the social spaces on campus, the societies and finally the city itself also make studying at Leeds really special.
This July I know that I will graduate with confidence about finding a good career, a better understanding of the world we live in, friends for life and countless happy and fun memories of my time at Leeds.