Photo of Anisha Gamblin, School of English alum

Anisha Gamblin

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am originally from the small town of Belper, in Derbyshire and I came to Leeds back in 2018 to begin my undergrad in English Literature. Since then, I've not only completed my degree but I have also had the incredible opportunity to study abroad at the Pennsylvania State University over in the USA! Whilst I was over there, I also applied for the Masters at Leeds that I'm currently completing.

Since being a fresher, I joined the Kickboxing & Krav Maga society at Leeds. Although gradings are not compulsory, I decided to give them a go and, as of a few months ago, I received my blue belt! It has been so fun doing kickboxing alongside my academic studies and has been a really great way to maintain my fitness and physical well-being. I also met some of my closest university friends at kickboxing!

In my spare time, I love to do yoga, meditation, hiking and (recently) indoor climbing. I think keeping physically fit and healthy is key to maintaining that work-play balance so I'm always making sure that I'm staying active in any way that I can. Moving your body feels great so I make sure to carve out time in my day to do so.

Also, as a literature student, I love to read (fiction and non-fiction). I'm currently obsessed with Emma Dabiri, especially her book 'Don't Touch My Hair'. The way she delves into cultural appropriation, slavery, mapping, music and decolonisation all through the idea of 'hair' is captivating. She is such a powerful writer and reminds me of how important it is to read, learn and educate myself as much as possible.

What are you planning to do following graduation?

I applied for a PhD in Extinction Studies in early 2023 and I have since found out that I have been accepted onto the programme. I love to study and being in a university environment surrounded by such bright and talented people is a privilege - hence, I feel so lucky to have been offered a place and I know that the PhD is the right option for me going forward.

Why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose to study the MA in Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies because the postcolonial teaching staff at Leeds are internationally renowned for their expertise. Beyond this, during my undergraduate degree, I began to foster an interest in the postcolonial, in particular in its project to decolonise the mind and to challenge the values that colonialism has maintained and perpetuated for centuries. I saw the MA as an opportunity to not only study postcolonial literature from across the globe but to also write essays that amplify, and platform oppressed subaltern voices. 

I chose the University of Leeds because of its diverse, inclusive, and supportive academic community. The School of English, in particular, is a very welcoming community and I have found it a great place to develop as an upcoming postgraduate researcher and scholar.

What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoyed studying ‘Postcolonialism, Animals and Environment’, not least because it introduced me to climate fiction (or cli-fi) and the ways in which literature can open us up to new, alternate, and more ethical ways of being in the world. Also, the ‘Global Indigeneity’ module has been intellectually fascinating. Through this, I’ve been able to study Indigenous literatures from Aotearoa New Zealand, Canada and the Pacific and I have recently begun a project on biocolonialism and medical ethics which are both topics the module introduced me to.

On a personal level, I have enjoyed meeting a diverse range of course mates from all walks of life. I feel privileged to study alongside them and I love our seminars where my ideas can bounce off of others and we can delve into discussion about whatever text we are studying that week.

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

I worked closely with Prof. Graham Huggan during semester one as part of my ‘Postcolonialism, Animals and Environment’ module. Graham was very helpful with facilitating my essay ideas and providing me with expansive reading suggestions! He encouraged me to think originally and to choose an essay topic that was exciting, interdisciplinary and non-conventional.

What activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

I have continued to do Kickboxing throughout my Masters which is a society I’ve been involved in since joining University in 2018. Being able to train weekly has been really important for balancing work and play and has allowed me to nourish my physical well-being and health alongside my studies.

I have also attended a meditation group throughout the year which has been a great space to unwind and relax after a busy week.

Lastly, I recently attended the Conservation society WRAG (Woodhouse Ridge action group) where we carried out conservation and maintenance activities (e.g. cutting ivy off trees, uprooting invasive plant species). It felt great to get out in nature and do something for the community and I will definitely be attending more of these in the future.

What would you say to students thinking about studying your course?

Absolutely go for it. It is a niche yet incredibly expansive area of study and I have learnt so much from the modules on offer. The postcolonial professors have always been open to chat and their office hours are a space of support where you can discuss and expand on your academic interests and ideas. At Masters level, you are given a new level of independence and autonomy. You can choose your essay topics and decide what academic research you will undertake which, for me, has allowed my research interests to flourish and grow in ways that I never imagined.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

Leeds is a brilliant city for students – the city centre is relatively close to campus and, even after being here for over three years, I still find new places and things to discover. There are lots of activities to get involved in that are offered by the LUU and it is never too late to join a society and make new friends.

Tell us about your study abroad year?

I did my study abroad year at Penn State University in the USA.

One of the best parts of the year abroad was meeting a bunch of international friends and having the opportunity to travel the States. It was an absolutely incredible year from the get go. I had the opportunity to travel to Florida (including Miami for spring break), Philadelphia, California, (including San Francisco and Yosemite as an end of year trip), New York (including Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Central Park, and Staten Island over Thanksgiving), New Jersey, Virginia, Washington DC (as a University trip), Pittsburgh (visiting a friend) and I also got to go skiing at one of Pennsylvania's ski resorts. Doing all this travelling was not only fun but meant that I became so much more confident and assured in myself. I remember having to navigate New York City and its subway system one night on my way back from Spring Break. Although I was slightly nervous, as this was my first time travelling solo in the States, everything went perfectly fine and I remember feeling so happy with myself when I arrived safely back at campus. It seems small, but I always look back to this moment to remind myself that I am independent and capable.

College life in the States is very community-oriented and getting involved in the university’s sport culture is one way of experiencing this. I went to Penn State’s football, soccer, volleyball, ice hockey and basketball games throughout the Fall and Spring semesters – the White Out game against Auburn was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.

In terms of academics, I loved all of my professors and I had the opportunity to take classes in Spanish, Science-fiction, African history, Asian American literature, Sexuality and Modern Visual Culture and more! I decided to take classes that I never took at Leeds to try out something new and to meet different kinds of people.

I also did Penn State's GELE (Global Engagement and Leadership Experience) where our team went to a (very stereotypical) American campsite and camped for a weekend. Alongside our leadership activities, in the evenings, we made smores and told ghost stories around the campfire (I truly felt as though I was living out an American movie).

Overall, I look back at my year abroad with such fond and happy memories and I would love to do it all over again!

Do you have any advice for students considering taking a study abroad year?

Do it! Say yes to any opportunity that comes your way and make an active effort to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Take the year as an opportunity for personal growth and enjoy the experience of being abroad. I can guarantee it will be one of your top life experiences!