Rachel Winstanley, MA Modern History student

Rachel Winstanley

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

Having completed my undergraduate degree in International History and Politics at Leeds I felt that I had developed strong relationships with the tutors in the School of History, and that the environment of the University suited me more so than any other university would. I decided to stay on to do my MA in large part due to my dissertation tutor in third year. He was the first person to suggest that I should continue my research and really supported me in my year out with applications and honing my MA dissertation ideas. Having lived in Leeds for 4 years already I loved the city as a whole, its art and music scenes and nightlife mean that there is a real community in the city and a support network that makes studying here amazing.    

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

I’ve always had a love of history and decided to do it as a degree, when at the open day I visited the history department to get some information for friends who hadn’t managed to come I discovered IHP. My interest has always been around 20th century history and when I mentioned this, I was told about IHP, a degree I hadn’t known existed and fitted my interests perfectly, leading me to redo my entire application. I particularly loved researching how media portrayals of events change how history is perceived and I was supported in developing this interest into two dissertations, an area that despite graduating I still want to pursue. 

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

At Masters I particularly loved the freedom to tailor your modules to exactly your interests. The fact that in Modern History MA there was only one compulsory module meant that I could completely design my course to compliment my dissertation as well as to pursue modules in subjects that simply interested me. I especially like that at MA tutors treated you as more of an equal, giving you loads of support outside of the specific module you studied with them, as they were keen to develop your interest and research into subjects. It truly gave me an insight into what being an academic might mean and has meant I am now looking to apply for a PhD. 

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a fantastic city, although small it has everything you need and there is a real sense of community. Having worked part-time throughout my degrees I was able to feel truly part of the city. The fact that it has so many universities and colleges means that there are always art events, music events, dramatic events and lectures taking place across the city and it is easy to pursue interests outside of your degree. 

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

Having been diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia in second year, I can say that the support in the School and at the University has been amazing and has made all the difference in me being able to achieve firsts in both degrees. The School administration team make efforts to get to know you, and when you are concerned about deadlines or other issues, are always willing to meet with you and talk through your options. Both times I got my results the support officers in History have made sure to come out and congratulate me, showing that they do really care about the students. In a wider sense, the disability service available to the whole University is incredible, they are supportive and always willing to go the extra mile to make sure that you get the support you need to do well in your studies. 

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Doing an MA at Leeds is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Although it seems daunting at first, the support from tutors, the school and the University means that it never gets too much. You feel like you’re a part of a real research community and are given opportunities, like presenting papers, which are invaluable experiences. As a city and a University I cannot think of anywhere better to study. 

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 am planning to take a year out and work before starting to apply for PhD places and funding. I think that the University has pushed me to develop my research skills, but more importantly to develop a clear voice and perspective that will allow me to develop my research and to produce individual work.