Image for Amber Zhang's student profile. Amber is smiling in front of a neutral coloured background and wears a pink hoodie with white text on the front, on which you can only see the top of the letters.

Amber Zhang

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Hi, I am Amber, and I have just finished my final year of BA Cultural and Media Studies. I come from Beijing, China, where I completed the A-levels programme at an international school before coming to the University of Leeds.

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

I heard about the University of Leeds at my high school’s university fair. It was then that I learned that the University of Leeds was ranked in the top 100 universities in the world by QS World University Rankings, and that it is one of the most diverse and multicultural in the UK with an extraordinary student experience.

Also, one of the things that attracted me to apply to the University of Leeds was the city of Leeds. I wanted to live in a big city but not as busy as London, and Leeds is just that; it’s not that bustling for a city but it has everything we need for living, for fun, for everything!

Other than that, the most crucial reason that made me decide to go to Leeds was the variety of programmes offered by the University. Of the many media-related courses available, I ended up choosing Cultural and Media Studies - a joint programme between the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, and the School of Media and Communication.

The course provides students with a diverse and interesting range of learning opportunities, encompassing not only media and communication expertise but also a wide range of disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, (art) history and film; thus expanding the learning opportunities and potential future career options.

What has been the best aspect of your course so far?

As it is a joint programme, it allows me to study modules and get support from both departments, providing me with more study options. I can choose a module that is more closely aligned with my interests. Besides that, these diverse options not only provided me with various avenues for further study in my postgraduate applications, but also raised my awareness of the multiple possibilities of potential careers.

I would like to mention here that the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies also offers career modules. In my second year, I chose a module on career development, which provided me with an understanding of several professional fields including within the arts, heritage and creative industries. This enhanced my transferable skills to manage my post-university life more effectively.

Can you tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed as part of your degree?

In my final year, under the supervision of a responsible and knowledgeable supervisor in my subject area, I used the analytical and critical skills I had acquired over the three years in different modules to conduct independent research on a topic of my choice, completing one of the most important projects of my undergraduate studies: the dissertation.

In completing such a massive project, my understanding of key theoretical concepts in cultural, media and social studies deepened siginificantly and I developed a critical perspective by combining academic theory with the complex issues faced in reality. It has also enhanced my time management skills, which I believe to be one of the most crucial skills both in university studies and workplace. Effective time management has enabled me to get more done in less time, and assisted me in prioritising my responsibilities, for example completing assignments and other internship work on time.

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

As a student at the University of Leeds, everyone will have an Academic Personal Tutor. This academic colleague from your own faculty will work with the student to help them maximise their success and ensure they feel part of the dynamic academic community at the University of Leeds. During a particularly stressful year last year, the support I received from my personal tutor Dr Claudia Sternberg was invaluable, from academic writing on specific modules to future personal growth.

Through working with her as a student ambassador, I found her kind and approachable – an entirely different perception from the disciplined, responsible lecturer of the classroom. Of course, if you are stressed or anxious, you can always seek assistance from your personal tutor. They are always there when you need them!

What activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

There are many other activities that students can take part in alongside their studies. It's worth noting that there are over 300 clubs and societies at the University of Leeds: any student can join a society that interests them or to try something new and make friends from multicultural backgrounds, which also helps students to expand their social network.

Besides my studies, I have had several internships in various fields both on and off campus, which have not only enriched my university life but have also enabled me to gain some transferable skills that are important in the workplace. In addition, my three years on this course have enabled me to develop a critical perspective on the complex issues and challenges facing the world today, and helped me transform flexibly the cultural awareness cultivated from the course into practice in my role as the Leeds International Summer School Assistant this year.

Through these internships, I have gained practical skills outside of the programme that will be helpful in my future career. The theoretical knowledge of creative approaches to culture and the arts, digital media and global communication networks that I have learnt from the programme has deepened my practical understanding of editing web pages and marketing using digital media during my internships.

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

Cultural and Media Studies is a diverse course, taught not only by passionate and internationally-renowned scholars, but also allows for study alongside students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Benefiting from its nature as an interdisciplinary course, it also offers students the opportunity to study and pursue careers in a wide range of fields. If you feel unsure about your future, or are looking for additional options, then this may be the right course for you!

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

Leeds is the unofficial capital of Yorkshire. A city at the heart of the action, bursting with life and cultural energy. In Leeds, brilliant Victorian architecture stands alongside buildings rich in industrial history, and yet, just a short bus or train ride away are quaint villages and inspiring landscapes just waiting to be discovered. If you would like to discover the real Leeds from a student's point of view, I highly recommend you keep an eye on our Link to Leeds blog, where we periodically upload articles on different topics, taking you through the university as well as the lovely city of Leeds!

What do you plan to do once you graduate?

After completing my course, I plan to pursue a master’s degree. So far, the University of Leeds has provided me with excellent support for my plan in all areas. The Careers Centre, for example, provides one-to-one appointments for students at different stages of their career, including CV checking and offering suggestions for applications, in addition to providing webinars on a variety of topics. During my one-to-one appointment with the career consultant, I was able to gain more clarity on the direction of my future studies, and their advice from checking my CV for my master’s application was very helpful.

Academically, the library (skills@library) also provides one-to-one guidance to students who need help with their academic writing. The resources provided by the library during my three years of undergraduate study have been extremely helpful and I believe that the knowledge and skills I have learnt from the library's workshops, such as critical thinking and the composition of arguments, will also go a long way in helping me to complete my Masters.

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career? (Or what experiences at Leeds do you think will help in securing a graduate role following graduation?)

It must be the Career Centre! Not only did I benefit from the career workshops they organised for different countries and fields, but also the one-to-one tailored appointments made me successful in my internship applications and interviews.

I particularly would like to mention the Leeds Internship Programme, an opportunity only available to Leeds students! This course has been the first step in my career and has allowed me to work on many exciting projects in local SME's and different departments of the University, and has allowed me to develop new skills and experience to be fully prepared in securing a graduate role afterwards.