Portrait of Mary o gorman

Mary O'Gorman

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am currently a second year English Literature and Language student. I grew up in a small town in Lancashire and fell in love straight away with Leeds University when I first visited whilst doing my A levels. 

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?  

The course seemed interesting and flexible; the campus had a welcoming atmosphere, and the lecturers were passionate about their teachings. Students were also enthusiastic and eager about the subject, the school itself, and the wider University. 

English Literature and English Language was the perfect course for me as I knew that I enjoyed studying both at A level. I was informed by a student at the time about the flexibility of the course, and how I would be able to choose from a wide range of modules, from Shakespearian plays to Victorian novels and post-colonial literature. 

The opportunity of Discovery Modules also persuaded me to apply to Leeds, as I could choose any area of study to pursue. I initially chose a ‘Beginners Spanish’ module in first year as I was interested in learning a new language. I thoroughly enjoyed this module and so decided to continue with it into my second year. I hope to continue with my Spanish studies into next year, so that I will graduate with a sound knowledge of the language and culture. 

Leeds has also provided the opportunity for me to go to Salamanca in Spain this summer. I am very much looking forward to attending Spanish classes and immersing myself within the Spanish culture and way of life. This trip will provide me with valuable skills, both in terms of improving my Spanish and living and studying in a foreign country. 

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

The texts we engage in across all modules have been selected by members of staff who are experts in their field of study. Their passion and enthusiasm for their area of study is portrayed through their teachings in lectures and seminars, and this allows us as students to also feel passionate and stimulated to carry out our own research.

I enjoy all aspects of my course, but some of the most interesting modules I have enjoyed thus far include: ‘American Words and American Worlds’, where I am reading American texts from 1900 to the present. We have been able to explore the works of Faulkner, Gertrude Stein and Elizabeth Bishop in relation to their use of different narrative perspectives, and have often discussed the question of ‘who is actually writing this?’ as the boundaries between author and narrator can become blurred. Texts such as these have developed my critical thinking skills, as well as my ability to construct responses to a certain idea of particular interest to me. I have developed the skills needed to become an independent researcher, and hope to continue with this throughout my degree. 

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

During this year, I selected the ‘Students into Schools’ module, where I have completed 35 hours of placement at a secondary school in Wakefield. This module has been different to any other module at University, as it does not follow the regular structure of lectures and seminars. The experience gained from observing classes and delivering lessons, as well as working in a professional environment, is one that will be beneficial to me throughout my degree and beyond, especially if I decide to pursue a career in secondary school teaching. I had to complete a 15 minute presentation in front of my tutor and peers on a topic of my choice that I observed in the classroom. I decided to speak about technology in the classroom, and discussed whether it was an enhancement or a distraction. This was a great form of assessment as it pushed me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to practice my presentation skills, an invaluable skill to employers. 

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

The English society is great to become involved in; I have been to Edinburgh and Amsterdam which were organised by the society and were great fun. Students can also get involved in a variety of societies in the Union. Last year I joined the rowing society as a beginner, which was a great team sport and I got to take part in races and competitions. In my first year I was also a member of my Hall Exec, where I was in charge of organising events for all pupils in my Halls of Residence. I had to organise events which catered for all students. The largest event which I organised was the Masquerade ball. 

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

I hope to become a secondary school teacher or teach English in a foreign country. The skills gained at Leeds, both in and out of my studies, will help me to achieve this goal and pursue my career as a teacher. I hope to travel after my degree, and my fluency in Spanish should provide me with a solid base to pursue these travels across South America.