James Jennion, Postgraduate student studying MA International Relations.

James Jennion

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Warrington and came to Leeds in 2013 to study BA English Language and Literature. During my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to travel abroad on several scholarships and to undertake a lot of cross-cultural work, which inspired my interest in international studies.

After my degree, I undertook a British Council-funded internship in Beijing, China, and worked in the Student Education Service in the Faculty of Engineering as an Admissions Officer for a while. In September I started my MA as well as taking up a part-time position as a Postgraduate Engagement Assistant in the Union’s Mary Morris team. 

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

My experience of Leeds as an undergraduate was overwhelmingly positive. The campus is truly cosmopolitan and offers a huge variety of activities to build personal and professional skills. 

The course appealed to me due to the high standard of research being undertaken by the tutors leading the modules as well as the modules themselves. The module choice was incredibly varied compared to other universities I looked at with a strong emphasis on contemporary issues, which is what I was looking for in my Masters degree.

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

My previous international experiences were what first drove me to International Relations. After studying it for a while, I’ve learned a lot about why the world is the way it is. There’s the ideal mix of theory and practical case study work, which helps make sense of the world, and I’m planning to get into political or governmental work this has been incredibly useful in forming my understanding of how global politics works.

What do you think of your course so far?

American Foreign Policy was a fascinating and comprehensive module that gave a real insight into the workings of the United States and how policy decisions are influenced. I’m really looking forward to The Rise of China, as China is a big interest of mine. It will be interesting to compare these two modules having studied the world’s only superpower followed by China, which is anticipated to be the next superpower.

This is where the value of the course lies; the modules are rooted in the real world, with theory providing a useful lens through which to rationalise and explain what happens and why. Overall, the content is extremely relevant and engaging and has certainly improved my understanding of the world.

What do you think of the facilities?

They’re of a very high standard. Most of the course readings I’ve had to do so far have been digitised and accessible from the Virtual Learning Environment, so this makes it very easy to access learning resources relevant to modules and seminars.

Tutors are very available and it’s easy to set up meetings with them to discuss ideas for essays and research. These meetings are also very useful and tutors take a real interest in the work you’re doing. The libraries are excellent as well; the search function makes it incredibly easy to find resources that are directly relevant to what you’re studying which takes a lot of stress out of coursework.

How do you find the student support in the School?

I haven’t had much cause to use it, but from what I’ve seen it is excellent. I had to make a few timetable changes for second semester and the office staff were extremely accommodating and made the changes very quickly. They’re also very proactive with sharing events and opportunities that will be of interest to students, so overall they’ve made an excellent impression.

Have you been involved in any extra-curricular activities?

Too many to count, but some that are particularly relevant to postgraduates that I have been involved with and organised include:

  • Fortnightly Breakfast & Yoga and Be Happy Hour events exclusive to postgraduate students. Both of these events are there to provide postgraduates with the opportunity to mingle and relax.
  • My fellow Postgraduate Engagement Assistant organises an excellent suite of wellbeing activities and sessions, with a focus on time management and mindfulness which work wonders in combatting the inevitable stress of postgraduate life. We’re also putting a big focus on family events this year to ensure that students and researchers with dependents have the opportunity to participate in the University community and include their families as well. 
  • Several one-off events throughout the year including: Postgraduate Welcome Party and Postgraduate Welcome Back Party, Making Work Global Panel Event and special events such as wine tasting and whisky tasting.
  • Global Café is a great way to meet people from around the world in a relaxed, friendly and alcohol-free environment.

What do you think about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is the ideal balance for me. It has the opportunities and events of a big city without feeling too large or stifling. It’s definitely a student city, so studying here makes you feel like a part of a real community with plenty of like-minded people to meet and make friends with.

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

Definitely do it. Aside from its academic prestige, Leeds is a holistic university with opportunities and activities that will appeal to anybody.

What are your plans for the future?

To take a couple of years out and study in China for a while with the British Council. I recently undertook some work experience in Parliament, so I’ll likely apply to the parliamentary grad scheme or Civil Service Fast Stream. Government and diplomatic work is my general goal.