Mairéad Ruane

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and why you chose Leeds as a city?

I’m from Rhyl, which is a seaside town in North Wales. English is my first language but I am fluent in Welsh as I attended a Welsh primary and high school - it’s a very unique language and new people I meet are usually surprised that I can speak it fluently!

What made you want to apply to your course? What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study? What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Liberal Arts attracted me as what makes me most excited is making connections across different fields - not only within the academic world - but with social issues rooted in the real world too. Choosing this course meant I could continue exploring my interests in literature and the visual arts. It also allowed me to explore other fields such as politics, sociology, philosophy, history of art and history, which I hadn’t studied for A Level. I hoped these subjects would open my mind, inform and strengthen my understanding of the world.

What drives me to advocate Liberal Arts to prospective students is that, if I take one thing from the degree, it will be that it has helped me grow as a person through developing the critical skills needed in life to shape my judgements and opinions so that I can question society and strive for societal progression.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most? 

A Liberal Arts degree allows you to specialise and ‘major’ in one subject (I chose Cultural Studies) and take minors across multiple fields. For first year, I chose modules in English Literature with History of Art; Philosophy, Ethics, Science and Religion; and Politics and Sociology module. I enjoyed being able to analyse areas of ‘culture’ in depth in my major, which was echoed by what I learnt in the Politics and Sociology module.

This year the most exciting and important aspect of Liberal Arts for me is the research proposal. I am part of a project called “Refugee Voices: Past and present” and I will work as part of a group to interview refugees in Leeds and try to develop an understanding of refugees’ experiences; both past and present. This is hugely important as it is ineffective to discuss social issues with academic, scholarly jargon from an alienated, removed point of view, if the people facing those social issues are not actually spoken to, heard or helped by this. I believe this hands-on and practical project will aid our student community, and hopefully wider society in tackling implicit bias, and with the aim of weakening the single story which has been heavily reinforced by the tabloids’ media portrayal of refugees.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

Something I have noticed about my school and my course tutors, is that they are extremely welcoming and inclusive and passionate about the course. I am very lucky that my course leader, Mark Wynn is always there to listen, offer advice and oversee my academic development.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

There are loads of societies which range from a focus on political topics to media, volunteering and hobbies. I am President for my course society which means I get to be involved in organizing how we collaborate as Liberal Arts students and also with other societies, such as Philosophy. I am a member of the Labour student society and along with volunteering with refugees this year I hope to become an active member within local homeless charities in Leeds. I’m hoping to continue developing the skill of filmmaking through creating social-realism short-films exploring these topics and attempting to amplify marginalised voices. Last year, outside of my studies, I mainly focused on my position as Arts and Culture editor for the feminist magazine, Lippy, and also got very involved with the photography for their magazine and online website. This year, along with continuing with Lippy, starting my position as President and joining new societies, I have a part-time job at a bakery across the road from uni which is convenient and helps me develop a sense of responsibility and financial independence.