Portrait of Maddie outside.

Madeleine Birks

Hear from Maddie as she discusses her time at Leeds. 
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Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I’m Maddie, I’m 21 and I’m a third year student at the University of Leeds, currently on my Year in Industry. 

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

Leeds as a city has always felt like home to me, and the reputation of University of Leeds as a Russell Group university was also a factor in me choosing to study here. Cultural and Media Studies was completely different to the other, more practical filmmaking based courses I had applied for elsewhere, but it combined my love for media and for theory and analysis, so it was really the perfect fit.

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

The interdisciplinary nature of the course is by far the best part for me. I have been able to answer theoretical questions that I had been grappling with by myself for so long, but previously had never had the tools to explore with any satisfying depth. Also, the expertise available from the lecturers and seminar leaders of this course is so vast, it means you can tailor module choices to your existing interests, which makes for really engaging study.

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

I felt like first year laid the foundations for what can be a really broad field of study, and then in second year I had the opportunity to play on those big ideas, even contest some, and explore topics that mattered to me. Some of my favourite modules have centred on digital cultures, disability theory and gender studies.

Have you worked closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff?

The two staff members I have worked most closely with would be Dr Sternberg and Dr Mitchell. I have the pleasure of having Dr Sternberg as my personal tutor and have found her to be extremely dedicated in supporting students one-on-one with our academic and professional endeavours. For me personally, that has meant support in dissertation planning, discussions around postgraduate study and consistent contact throughout my studies abroad and my year in industry.

Dr Mitchell has also been hugely influential in my studies as I found her module ‘Bodies of Difference’ very engaging. It exposed some entirely new concepts to me, particularly surrounding disability theory. She fosters an environment in her classes in which students can explore complex ideas without the fear of failure. Outside of the lectures, Dr Mitchell runs a study group that I have found useful in easing me back into academic headspace whilst on my year industry. 

What activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

In my second year, I was an active member of the yoga society, and took part in classes at least once a week. I found this society so welcoming to beginners and am really looking forward to going more once I am back on campus full time.

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

I would definitely encourage prospective students to come to open days, and talk with the course providers. This is a course with so much potential to be moulded to whatever it is that interests you most, so definitely have a look into some of the modules offered to see if it is something you could see yourself doing. 

I’d also encourage students to make use of discovery modules from other course as part of your study. I’ve found these can not only offer a refreshing change in study but have also helped broaden my thinking in my core modules, too. 

What is Leeds like as a city?

Leeds is a very student-focussed city, that has it’s own unique identity. There’s so much variety here, I feel like everyone can find something they really love about the city. If you’re thinking of moving here, definitely spend some time in the city - there's some great Leeds-based blogs on Instagram in case you’re unsure where to start!

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career? 

My year in industry at Limehouse Films has been absolutely invaluable in allowing me industry experience. I feel so much so secure now, knowing that I will have a year of work experience under my belt, once I leave university. I’ve discovered that I would love a career in film production but I am also considering continuing in academics by pursuing postgraduate study.

Do you have any advice for students considering taking a year in industry?

I’d definitely recommend a Year in Industry to any student, it can give you clarity on potential future career paths. It’s great to start to navigate the working world in a position of learning, where there is less pressure and more flexibility than a traditional 9 to 5.