Jonathan Groves

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Growing up in Tanzania left me with a real passion for foreign affairs and foreign policy, especially with regards to Africa.  It was a big part of the reason why I took the decision to study International Relations. 

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

I decided to come and study the course at Leeds because the University had a great reputation and I loved the campus and the city itself. I’m passionate about the study of International Relations, because it really does have a big impact on our communities and us as individuals. 

It fascinates me to go behind the news and really understanding why governments act as they do with regards to Foreign Policy.  Living in Africa during horrific international events such as the Rwanda genocide and following civil war in 1994 is also a big reason as to why I’m so passionate about foreign policy. Growing up meeting refugees from such terrible circumstances definitely makes what I study very real to me.

Tell us about your study abroad experience.

Taking a year abroad was a great opportunity to understand more about foreign policy and how it is developed by foreign governments and how it affects individuals across the world. Studying abroad was very relevant to my course but I also wanted the opportunity to develop independence and experience different cultures and life experiences. 

South Africa did not disappoint. Studying in the Eastern Cape at Rhodes University was a fantastic way to experience South Africa. I quickly made friends through getting involved in everything I could and spent my weekends and holidays trekking in the bush on various game farms and mountain ranges. 

In the longer holidays I often stayed at a friend’s beach cottage in the Transkei, a former Xhosa homeland. I really enjoyed the fishing there and a real highlight was catching and eating various sized fish as well as sharks and enormous conga eels. 

During term I also got involved helping at a boys' refuge in the Grahamstown Township, which was a thoroughly rewarding experience and a great insight into the diversity of culture and wealth that exists in South Africa. 

Studying politics from a completely different perspective was quite refreshing and helped encourage my passion for studying International Relations. Witnessing a general election, talking with those involved in local politics as well taking African studies courses at an African institution were experiences especially relevant to my course, broadening my understanding of politics across the globe. 

Another real highlight for me was being able to take advantage of the long summer holiday and travel across Southern Africa. Spending a month in Zimbabwe with one my friends from Rhodes University was a great part of the year. Mixing with former white farmers as well as talking to ZANU PF members again helped to broaden my understanding of politics across the globe. This understanding will certainly help in my research work and essay writing in my final year.  

Southern Africa is also a great place to enjoy some thrilling experiences and travelling down the garden route with friends from university we were able to ride ostriches, cage dive with great white sharks and jump from the highest bungee in the world. 

I would definitely recommend a year abroad to other students from the University of Leeds. It is a fantastic way to really get involved with different cultures and experience living in a different country. 

The experience really helps to broaden understanding of foreign cultures and teaches a lot about independence. Being based at a university abroad is also a real advantage. It is such a great place to make friends with people from the host country and get involved with different sports and activities making it so much easier to enjoy the time abroad. 

Taking the opportunity through the University to live abroad is great way to spend a year - doing something constructive and positive. It was not only a great life experience but has really benefited my degree. 

The Study Abroad office staff were also very helpful, which made the process of moving abroad so much easier and more relaxed. It really is a once in lifetime experience and being a student at the University of Leeds makes it a very accessible option. I would thoroughly recommend it.