Arabic and International Relations student attains role at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Megan Houston, Laidlaw Scholar in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, achieves a position in the Diplomatic Fast Stream.

Megan Houston, BA in Arabic and International Relations (2020).

Megan tells us about being accepted onto the Laidlaw Programme, and how her time with Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Leeds has helped shape the next stage of her future. Congratulations, Megan.

“I was accepted in the Laidlaw Programme in 2018, whilst on my year abroad in Fes, Morocco, and it has had a huge impact on my University experience as a whole. I chose to self-propose my own research, looking into the role of lower income women in the formation of early Islamic society, under the supervision of Dr Fozia Bora.

The programme gave me an incredible opportunity to gain valuable research experience whilst being paid, an experience that definitely isn’t always easy to find in the humanities/social sciences. I met a huge range of people, that were all incredibly passionate about their respective subjects and got opportunities ranging from presenting at international conferences to attending an opera! The highlight of my time on the Laidlaw Programme was definitely being able to travel to Malaysia to interview women’s organisations for my research. It still feels surreal that someone believed in me and my research enough to make so many resources available to me. As someone who struggled academically coming to University, having this programme helped both my research skills and my confidence in myself, and I don’t believe I’d have gone out to achieve the other things that I have inside and outside of the University setting without it. 

The support I’ve had during my time at Leeds has been invaluable in having the confidence to go after these opportunities.

This autumn, I will be beginning a new role in the Diplomatic Fast Stream at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after a highly competitive process that saw 25,000 applications narrowed down to 40 offers! I was definitely helped in getting this opportunity by completing the Summer Diversity Internship Programme the summer before, an incredible opportunity I’d recommend it to anyone eligible (those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, BAME and disabled individuals). The support I’ve had during my time at Leeds, particularly from the Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department has been invaluable in having the confidence to go after these opportunities. I’ve built up great relationships with some of my tutors who have supported me every step of the way, and whilst my Arabic language skills have been useful, the most important thing for me has been the confidence gained from having from being both stretched and supported during my four years at University.

As a student from a low-income background, I didn’t know if a career at somewhere like the Foreign Office would be possible for me, but my best mentors, like my Laidlaw supervisor Dr Fozia Bora, have never let me put any limits on myself, and neither should anyone else!”