- Course: German and Philosophy
- Year of graduation: 2018
- Nationality: British
- Location of year abroad: Germany
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’m from a small town just outside Bolton (but just tell everyone I’m from Manchester because it’s easier!). I went to the local high school where everyone knew everyone and then to the much bigger Winstanley College in Wigan, where I did A levels in Maths, German, English, Philosophy, and General Studies. I’ve always been strong academically which made it hard to narrow down my academic path based on grades, so I had to just go with my gut and what I liked. I always assumed from high school that I would go on to university, partially because it seemed to just be the thing everyone did, partially because I knew it was what smart people were ‘supposed’ to do. I initially assumed I’d go on to do German and English but after studying Philosophy for two years at college and loving it, I decided to pursue that at university alongside German.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?/ Why did you choose Leeds?
After a couple of years of studying Philosophy I really wanted to pursue it at university, and ever since Year Seven I knew I was going to carry on with German. Initially, I hadn’t really considered Leeds – my family were pushing me to apply to Oxford as I was predicted all A*s, and I was also considering Manchester because I knew the city, but I wanted to go a little further away from home and try somewhere new. When I researched institutions offering a joint honours German and Philosophy degree, Leeds was one of only a handful of universities that actually offered it, and certainly the best university which offered it. Knowing that they offered a wider range of courses and specifically the very combination I wanted, I was encouraged to go on an open day.
While I waited for the open day I submitted applications to four other universities, but was only able to apply for single honours German at those unis, and from that moment I knew Leeds was likely going to be my first choice. After the open day, I was certain. After only a few hours on campus, I felt in my heart that this was the place for me. The tutors were friendly and knowledgeable, the students seemed to love Leeds, the campus was vibrant, the union building seemed to contain everything you could possibly need, and the wider city itself seemed made for students. I could envision my future; I could see myself walking around the campus, making friends, connecting with the tutors, having a happy, lively, incredible four years. None of the other universities I visited gave me that feeling – not even Oxford, where I spend a week at a summer school. I couldn’t deny that gut feeling of being at home and feeling completely sure of that, and I knew from that moment on that Leeds was the place for me.
What is it that made you passionate about your area of study?
I’m passionate about German because I think that languages are absolutely vital to people today, not just in terms of being able to communicate with those from other countries in an age of unprecedented globalisation and multiculturalism, but for instilling a healthy respect and curiosity for other cultures and ways of living, which I believe fosters tolerance and respect in language learners, which the world definitely needs more of. I also love that with languages you can never be finished learning. There will always be new words to learn, new terminology entering a language, new books to read, new films to watch. It’s a lifelong process. That’s probably also why I love Philosophy so much. If something exists, there’s probably a philosophy of it, and as more new technologies, media and phenomena emerge in society, philosophers begin to explore it. Philosophy also encourages us to keep the curiosity about the world we exhibited as children, to stay open-minded and questioning about even the most basic, everyday assumptions that we take for granted, and again, encourages open-mindedness and tolerance, as well as honing analytic and critical thinking skills. It’s truly a fascinating subject, and it’s also made me pretty good at arguing! Both halves of my degree have complemented each other fantastically, and I like to think have made me a better, more open-minded and respectful person.
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
My final year Philosophy of Art module was a real highlight. I’d never done anything like it before, but I loved the whole module and the passion of the tutor to the point where I actually enjoyed (!) writing both the essays. It was nice to see my enthusiasm was reflected in my grades as well. The same was true of my final year project, which was also on art. It became my baby, and all my hard work absolutely paid off. It was amazing to be able to explore art in that project, even though artworks had never featured in my course up until that point. The independence it offers you is brilliant.
The year abroad has to be mentioned of course. It’s an opportunity I can’t adequately put into words. While it was hard at times (I did a 12 month work placement with a very demanding company), I learned so much from it, got invaluable work experience which directly led me to get an internship in the summer before my final year, as well as my first job post-university, and I met incredible people while spending the year in the awesome city of Hamburg! Leeds offers a lot of opportunities for students to do a year abroad even if they’re not doing a language degree, which is something I love about the uni, and so I always tell people that if they get the chance, they should 100% make sure to do it. It’ll change your life.
What would you say about Leeds as a city?
It’s truly made for students. I read somewhere that about 1/3 of the population of the city is students because of all the universities and colleges, and you can really tell. It’s got so much energy. There’s something from everyone, and there’s always something going on. I’ve never had a bad night out in Leeds, or even a bad meal that I can think of! There are also tonnes of opportunities to get stuck in to the community. Last year, I volunteered at the annual Light Night, which is a two day arts and cultural event where the city installs artworks and light displays all over. I also volunteered at a range of museums and art galleries in the city centre, including the university’s own Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. There’s natural beauty to be found in Leeds to, like in Temple Newsam Park or at Kirkstall Abbey. Even now that I’m graduating, I still have plenty of items on my ‘Leeds Bucket List’ that I just never got chance to do, like go to Tempe Donuts, Belgrave Feast, try cocktails at the Angelica, watch a film at Hyde Park Picture house… it’s really a magical place to study, and I already miss it so much!
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
The School of Languages, Cultures and Societies is so helpful and supportive. I’ve definitely grown close to my personal tutor over the years and he’s been there for me every step of the way. There’s lots of opportunities for extra support with uni work, from the study groups offered by the Philosophy society to tandem partnership opportunities for language students, as well as lots of cultural events and interesting talks. The tutors are really passionate about their fields, and it shows through in their lectures and tutorials. Across the university there’s also loads of study space available, especially now the Laidlaw Library has been completed and the union building and Edward Boyle library have been refurbished. It was nice in final year when I felt like I lived in the library to know that I would be able to find somewhere to study, even at the busiest times, because there’s so much space.
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 project on art, something we’d not ever really touched on in my studies up until that point, but something that after my year abroad I wanted to explore. The title of my project was “The villainization of female sexuality: Prostitution in the works of George Grosz and Otto Dix, 1919-1924”. While it really was a challenge and I had to learn a whole new set of skills, most obviously learning to analyse and technically deconstruct artwork, it was such a rewarding process, and I was immensely proud of the finished product, which made it all the more satisfying to receive a first. On top of that, it helped solidify my time-management skills, my ability to work independently and to analyse and sort large amounts of data and prioritise the most important, all skills that I think are transferable and great for employability. I loved the FYP. Obviously it wasn’t always easy, but it was so so worth it.
Did you spend any time abroad and if so how was your experience?
As I mentioned, I spent 12 months living and working in Hamburg, Germany, for my compulsory year abroad. It really was life changing. Even working 40+ hours a week, I still had the opportunity to travel all across Europe, I made great friends, my language skills improved so much, I got invaluable work experience that directly helped me secure a summer internship when I got back, and most importantly I got a taste of what the real world would be like when I finished uni, which I was very glad of. It certainly was tough at times and could be lonely on occasion,but I wouldn’t change the experience for the world. Going through such an emotionally challenging, at times difficult and very intense year really equipped me for the challenges of final year, which seemed miniscule by comparison. It gave me independence and incredible confidence, which every person who has interviewed me for a job since has complimented me on. Leeds offers so many opportunities to do a year in industry or abroad, even if it isn’t a compulsory part of your degree like mine was, and three of my housemates (none of whom did languages) all did one and loved it too. When I worked at open days I recommended it to every potential student because it’s such a fantastic opportunity that I don’t think enough people take up, and it’s actually made me consider a career working in a work placements office at a university to get more people to do it.
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?
As I said, I did 12 months working as a project manager at a translation company in Hamburg, and as my year was coming to an end I knew I wanted to jump right back into another job when I came back for the summer before final year. I ended up looking at the Leeds internship website, and was got a Student Recruitment internship within the admissions office for my own faculty. It was a direct result of the skills that I had gained on my work placement abroad that I was given this internship, as my interviewer commented that I seemed really confident, had lots of good examples of challenges I’d faced in the workplace and how I overcame them, and also that I had good communication skills. I couldn’t have gotten that summer internship if I hadn’t done my work placement in Hamburg. In turn, the Student Recruitment internship helped me develop even more skills and opened my eyes to a potential new career path within the higher education sector, which I hadn’t previously considered. It was lucky that I did, as I now have another job working in university admissions!
What are your career plans after finishing the course?
I’m currently working in university administration, in the admissions department at The University of Manchester, after completing an internship in the Leeds admissions department during my final year. In the next few years, I’d hopefully like to move into a role in either the international office or work placement office so I get the chance to work with students concerning their year abroad. I loved mine so much that I really want nothing more than to get more people to do years abroad or work placements and to get more out of them. I’m also considering applying for a master’s in a few years’ time, but we’ll see how I feel after a little break!