Portrait of Murray hawthorne

Murray Hawthorne

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I grew up in East Sussex, completing my A-Levels at BHASVIC in German, History and Maths. 

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

I found the department very welcoming and approachable during the open day and taster sessions, which made me feel it was a place I wanted to study. The campus also had a great vibe with lots of passionate students. I was impressed by the facilities and the amount going on in the union as well.

What course did you study, what made you apply for that particular one?

I studied Joint Honours Arabic and Politics. I particular liked the course at Leeds over other universities as it allowed me to study Arabic language alongside the broader aspects of political science. I really enjoyed the broad scope of the course, which allowed me to try a range of topics and gradually start to specialise. 

Why did you choose Leeds?

I was very impressed by both the Politics and the Arabic department when I came to visit. All the staff I met were passionate as well as approachable, which I felt was really important to get the most out of my university experience. I had also heard great things from previous students who loved the city and everything it had to offer!

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

I have always loved using languages as it opens up new cultures, people and experiences you wouldn’t have without them. I have also been interested in current affairs and politics from a young age and was inspired by the Arab Spring to learn more about the field. After a summer holiday to Turkey I also became more interested in the Middle East, its culture, politics and religions. Therefore, the course felt like the perfect marriage between my interest in current affairs with my passion for language and culture. The course has not only made me an expert in the region but even more passionate about understanding it and experiencing all it has to offer.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

I really enjoyed the scope that Arabic and Politics allowed me. I was not narrowed into only studying the MENA region, for example branching out into political theory, Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and global trends. At the same time I was about to benefit from the expertise of tutors within the Arabic department who ran inspiring modules in History and Current Affairs. 

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

It has everything! Whether you like a night out, the theatre, food or art, it seriously has something for everyone. It was also very easy to escape the busy city and enjoy a walk in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. 

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

As a student with a learning disability I benefited greatly from the Learning Support Services, meeting with a special tutor each week to discuss any challenges and find ways to bridge them. There is also a great range of libraries to fit the environment you like to study in, the old dome of Brotherton was my favourite. 

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 did an Extended Essay on Libya post-2011, exploring the role of tribes in the post-Ghaddafi era and what impact they were having on the nation-state building process. After 3 years at university it was a great opportunity to research a field that was my own and steer the direction of the research. I learnt a great deal in the process, time management and thinking outside the box was key to doing well as your tutor isn’t going to give you all the answers. 

Did you spend any time abroad and if so how was your experience?

I lived in Morocco for 9 months as part of the Arabic language side. The teaching at the institute in Fes was amazing and they deserve a lot of credit for my current skills. It was a challenging but incredible experience all at once. Living in one of the oldest cities in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site isn’t something you can say everyday. It is a full on city full of sights and smells but by the end I felt at home in a city a world away from my own. It was an eye opening experience that greatly shaped my outlook on the world. I recommend a year abroad to every student; it will add another level to your university experience!  

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?

I worked a lot in the local community with a political party in Leeds, which was a great way to meet locals and understand more about the city. It was also a good way to get outside the university bubble and learn more. I also have worked with EU Commissioner Federica Mogherini, HR/VP for Foreign Affairs, to increase the inclusion of young people in policy making. I gained an academic foundation for this work during my studies at Leeds but also the confidence for public speaking through presentations and seminar discussions. There is so much to get involved in at the University Union and I recommend students take full advantage of that because there is only so much you can learn in a classroom.

What are your career plans after finishing the course?

In the medium term I plan to take my studies further, specialising in international relations. I am exploring short-term work at a Commerzbank but long term would like to work in policy either in the UK or in an international environment.