Ben Simonson

Ben Simonson

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I completed my undergraduate degree in BA Portuguese and International Relations and I am currently working on my Masters by Research which focuses on a very contemporary Brazilian issue examining the threats facing the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

When I was younger, I was fortunate to spend some time living and travelling in Portugal and Brazil which fuelled my interest in the Portuguese language.  

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

My undergraduate degree gave me an incredible insight into the fascinating, and at times troubling, history of the Lusophone world.

Furthermore, my decision to do a joint honours allowed me to split my time between my two big interests: politics and the Portuguese language.

What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most? 

The variety of modules available to students is fantastic. I particularly enjoyed taking modules that focused on the history, culture and politics of Portuguese speaking countries around the world. The ability to select modules that could complement both sides of my joint honours degree was a major bonus too.

The opportunity to go on a year abroad in third year was a big highlight for me. I completed a ten month internship in Lisbon which improved my language skills ten-fold and I made some incredible friends and memories along the way.

Have you worked closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience.

My current research masters means that I work very closely with two members of the department and this has been an incredibly valuable experience which has really helped to shape the direction of my research.

During my undergraduate degree, my tutor was based in the Portuguese department which meant that I could always consult them with any queries or issues that I faced throughout the year.

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

The University of Leeds and its student union boasts an enormous array of extracurricular teams, societies and groups.

I particularly enjoyed taking part in the Leeds ‘RAG’ (Raise and Give) society, in which we completed a sponsored charity bicycle ride from Leeds to Barcelona, cycling over 1000 miles and raising lots of money for a Leeds-based charity.

In my first year I joined the tennis society which was a great way to meet new people.

What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed so far at Leeds will help with these plans?

I am hoping to use my Portuguese language skills and begin my professional career working at a political risk firm, helping organisations and businesses navigate the complex issues and threats in the Portuguese speaking world.

The four years of undergraduate study as well as my current MA have equipped me with good research and critical thinking skills to help me succeed in this field.