Portrait of Viviane cornelissen

Viviane Cornelissen

I was born to Dutch and Vietnamese/French/Chinese parents in the Netherlands, and I was raised in Dutch and French. After completing an English-Dutch bilingual secondary school degree I knew for sure I really liked languages. At age 18, I did not know what I wanted to do or how to combine my interests. I spent four years in Belgium trying my luck in the Arts; I went to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Gent and studied Photography for three years. After I was forced to quit this course without a qualification I spent some time thinking about what I wanted in life. So when at 22 it appeared I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted, I spent a year working and traveling and taking the time to really investigate what else was out there that was intellectually stimulating to me. I wanted something in line with my interests, but not too narrowed down. It was in this time that I discovered that Linguistics existed, and it seemed to tick a lot of my boxes. 
When I found the course description of the Single honours course in Leeds, I knew this was exactly the type of degree I wanted. Linguistics is broad enough to have plenty of options for you to explore if you don’t know which aspect you like the most (yet), but the modules on offer are specific enough that you feel like you are really focusing on one aspect. When I applied to Leeds I did not know if I would like Phonetics, Psycholinguistics, Syntax or Sociolinguistics more, but I knew I wanted to learn about them. It was important to me that a course at least offered the option of studying different areas of the field. I thought it was really good that you start with everything in your first year, and you can make up your curriculum as you go along, including modules outside of the field. This meant that if I wanted to take up a language again, I could.

When I visited the Department at the Open Day, I saw that the tutors were passionate about their topics, and what really struck a note with me was that they are all active researchers and staying on top of developments in their area of expertise.

During the course I have really enjoyed the engaging seminars with smaller groups, in which you get to have time to really come to terms with the material with the help of a knowledgeable tutor. I think having this type of hands-on learning is really stimulating and helps to put the sometimes overwhelming or abstract feeling material like journal articles into perspective. I have also enjoyed doing projects and first-hand research for the dissertation. It’s a lot of work, but it is very rewarding because at the end of it all, you have accomplished something more than just some words on paper. It’s a challenging experience that is very valuable and worthwhile to show what kind of skills you have learned and put to use over the length of the course.

The most surprising thing about coming to Leeds has been the student union. Before I arrived, I figured university life would be a very academic-centred experience for me. In the Netherlands or Belgium, there is not such a system in place where there is so much on offer for students to explore and engage in. I think it is fantastic that there are clubs and societies and things like shops and nightclubs especially for students! I had been worried I might get lonely if I didn’t make friends on my course, but this has far from become reality. I’ve been a part of some music oriented societies such as the chorus and the Rock society, but also Sign Language and the Stitch and Bitch. In my second year, I started SocieTEA with my friends, a society all about tea. It is a lot of fun because we get a lot of international students and other people who don’t necessarily want to include alcohol as part of their socialising. We’ve gone on trips to Betty’s in York and organised a ‘tearoom crawl’, the Tealey Run, as a parody of the Otley Run, the famous pubcrawl.

I’m really grateful that Leeds decided to take me on even as a mature student, because I have felt really at home at the Department. The friendly environment and helpful staff have been great to work with and really helped me enjoy my time at Leeds! My age or non-native background has never felt like a burden and especially in the student union I have been able to find many friends and fun activities to ensure I had a good time. I will definitely miss Leeds when I leave!

After graduating, I plan to continue in Psycholinguistics and hopefully in Cognitive semiotics. I’m looking to apply to an internship in Germany and after that, a Masters in Scandinavia. It is all very exciting but luckily the excellent tutors are tremendously helpful.