Portrait of William Harrington-Roberts

William Harrington-Roberts

I am currently in my 3rd year studying joint honors International Relations and Thai and South East Asian Studies. I applied to Leeds because I had been to an open day and really enjoyed the feel of the University and the campus. Being a campus university with everything in one place is really useful and convenient, but it also creates a great social environment where you're always bumping into people you know and get to be around a vast group of people studying a whole range of different subjects. However the great thing about Leeds University is that it is in the heart of the city, so everything you need is always within walking distance.

I originally applied to Leeds to study single honours BA International Relations. However this was before I went on my gap year where I spent 12 months in a small town in Northern Thailand teaching English with the gap year charity Project Trust. Half way through this year I had already decided I wanted to change my degree programme to include Thai studies, as I had fallen in love with the Thai culture and way of life. Although I'd never particularly enjoyed studying languages at school, whilst I was on my gap year I loved learning and speaking Thai, and wanted to carry on developing my language ability.

I know that Thai is quite an unusual degree, but that is exactly what I want when considering my future career prospects, especially in a time of unemployment. Having Thai as part of my degree gives me a speciality to focus on, a specific set of skills and an idea of my career prospects. It also makes me unique to employers and helps me stand out from the crowd. At the moment, I am currently preparing to start a 3 month summer internship with Amnesty International at their office in Bangkok which is a perfect example of using my degree to stand out from the crowd. I've always wanted to work with an NGO such as Amnesty International, and I know if I didn't have the specialist knowledge that studying Thai studies at Leeds has given me, it would have been a lot harder to try and get foot in the door.

My favourite aspect of studying in the EAST department is the year abroad. A year abroad is definitely the most fun anyone will ever have whilst at uni, and all my friends from other subjects are very jealous of me! The small number of people on my course means that we are all really close, with the teachers too, which makes me feel that I am getting  value for money and a great deal of one-on-one contact time. I spent my year abroad in Chiang Mai, and all of us on the Thai course were at the same university and studied together, so it was great fun being together, but we also got the opportunity to go off individually and join classes with other Thai students. I studied a module on Thai politics which was really interesting and also a great way of making new friends. Before starting at Chiang Mai University, I went out to Thailand early and spent the summer teaching in a refugee camp on the Burmese border. This experience was truly amazing and I had such an incredible time with my students. It also inspired me to write about Burmese migration into Chiang Mai as part of my year-abroad research project.

My proudest moment has to be going to the Royal Thai Embassy in London this February to receive an award for this research project and the work I did during my year abroad. As well as collecting my cash prize, certificate and trophy I also gave a speech in Thai to the Ambassador and had a chat with him afterwards. The Embassy building was amazing and the award looks great on my CV, as well as hopefully opening up many opportunities in the future with the connections I made. Apart from this, another opportunity that my course opened up for me is a future in radio! This year, me and one of my course mates ran a weekly bilingual Thai-English radio show on Leeds Student Radio which was hilarious. We played a collectic mix of Thai and English tracks and introduced all the songs in both Thai and English!