- Course: French and History
- Year of graduation: 2018
- Location of year abroad: France
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up in England with British and Swiss heritage. I come from a family of five and lived for most of my life in Leamington Spa. I played many sports as a child and teenager, but my best one was swimming, where I was able to compete at national level.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
During my A-levels, I knew I wanted to continue studying. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the future but I knew I wanted to study something that I knew I enjoyed.
I wanted to apply to Leeds as it offered a wide range of language courses and I had heard it had a good reputation from friends. Being a northern city also had its attraction as I had never really been to the North of England and it interested me.
What course did you study, what made you apply for that particular one?
I studied French and History at A-level and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. History for me is integral to understanding mankind and also looking to understand the future. It also allows you to train your writing and analysis skills, skills that I hope to use in the future. French was a language I had to speak with my family, but that I had not yet fully mastered. Learning French would give me a language that would be useful to me personally and would boost my chances of working abroad. A BA in History and French seemed therefore like a perfect mix.
What is it that made you passionate about your area of study?
I adore the French language as whole. I find it fascinating. It also has a personal attraction, as most of my family speak it as their first language. As a Latin language, it has also given me the roots and tools when learning other Latin languages. I have been able to pick up Spanish and Italian during my Summer holidays quite easily, and this I put down to learning French at university.
I have found ancient and modern history very interesting since I was young. This has come in use when learning about other countries’ cultures, and in this sense both my areas of study have been linked.
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
I would have to say my year abroad was the most enjoyable part as it was probably one of the best years of my life. The course at Leeds allowed me to apply for a work placement in Lyon in a recruitment company for 9 months. The placement was interesting, but most of all I made many new friends in a very vibrant city in the heart of Europe. I often go back to visit, and I hope to work there in the future.
At Leeds, the amount of variety of modules that both departments had to offer allowed for a very interesting 3 years of study.
What would you say about Leeds as a city?
Leeds is also a very lively city. In terms of student life, it has a lot to offer. Nightlife, events and being close to other big cities in the north make it a great location.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
For the French side and History, the facilities are of a very high standard. You have the language zone, a centre with computers and materials to help learn many different languages. The three main libraries are also stunningly impressive. You have a mix of old church-like to very modern looking areas to study, all kitted out with great research and study facilities.
What was your experience with the FYP (Final Year Project)? What did you do your project on and what skills did you gain during the process?
I chose to do my FYP in History. I wrote a 40 credit dissertation on the diplomatic relations between France and Britain, 1979-81. This period was the first three years of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, during which most of the historiography painted as a time of poor diplomatic relations between both countries. Through the studying of primary source material which had not been largely looked out, I was able to argue that in fact diplomatic relations were in fact much healthier than were first thought to be, allowing to add my own personal findings to an area of history that has not been looked at in much detail.
The FYP allowed me to improve my research and writing skills, time and schedule keeping. Going to the archives in London to do primary research was also a new experience. Writing 12,000 words on one subject does not seem like such a daunting task now.
Did you spend any time abroad and if so how was your experience?
As I said before, the course I chose allowed me to experience many new things in a city I didn’t know in France. It was a great experience, and one of the main reasons I am so happy I picked Leeds and the course.
Did you undertake any work experience or worked in a job related to your degree during your time at university? If so how did the skills gained as Leeds help you?
In my final year, I worked for a few months in a charity for refugees. I was needed to speak a bit of French as some of the refugees came from French speaking countries.
My research skills that I acquired through the history side, and French translation studies also helped me a lot during my work placement in Lyon. I felt as ease in the job I was doing thanks, in part, to these skills that the course had helped me improve.
What are your career plans after finishing the course?
I want to travel South America, notably visit Argentina and Chile. Before that, I hope to earn a bit of money working in France or Switzerland. I would also like to apply to the Foreign Office or Civil Service.