Portrait of Shreya Sikka

Shreya Sikka

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I have considered myself a poet for as long as I can remember. Over the years I slowly but surely found out I was also a decent story-teller, which gave me a sense of encouragement in labelling myself as a ‘writer’. I graduated with a BA Honours in English and in my third year I took my first ever creative writing class.

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

I think that my undergrad was quite a well-informed first step towards this course. At the time I didn't know I would be interested in a full time MA course in creative writing. But I decided to pick English in my third year and switched from a triple major course to Honours. Not surprisingly, the creative writing class was the one I enjoyed the most. It was quite a big decision for me because it is quite rare for people to study such a course where I come from. Only very few universities offer such a course in India, if they do at all. I was keen on coming to the UK and Leeds offered a very open and flexible course, which I knew, was what I wanted. With the course predominantly focusing on honing my own writing, there was nothing better I could have asked for. Additionally I had always heard and read good things about Leeds, so I was quite certain that this was the School I wanted to go to.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

It's so hard to state everything in a few lines, but I think what I enjoyed most was how much freedom we were given to write about absolutely anything we wanted. I ended up writing a novelette for my dissertation/research project. It was a very liberating experience. 

The consistent feedback sessions from the professors also make the course very rewarding. I've now become more aware of the technical aspects of writing and this has consequently made me a more confident writer.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a lovely student city, located very conveniently at the centre of the UK. I've managed to travel so much in the last year, adding a wealth of experiences to my journey, especially as a writer. I've lived in large Indian metropolitan cities all my life, so I find Leeds to be just the right balance of happening and peaceful. The countryside is mesmerising and Yorkshire is a beautiful area.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

Before coming to Leeds, I did have some ideas of how the city would be and how life would change for me. But I didn't expect to grow and learn so much in just the span of just a year! This has been one exciting year and I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I've achieved in such a short period of time.

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

The School has ties with various arts and creative organisations and I've had the opportunity to work with some of them. I was recently commissioned to co-write a play for the Marks & Spencer Archive, tracing the history of the company. The play was then performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. This was a very big learning opportunity for me and I took so much away from the experience. I also worked with Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah earlier this year on a collaborative radio play about the partition of India. The play was aired on Chapel FM.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

With over 300 student societies to there is so much offered by the student union. I've been quite involved with a few of the societies. My poems were published in all four issues of Volume 4 of The Scribe; I co-wrote a play for The Open Theatre Society and volunteered with Leeds Marrow for a few weeks. I've also been working with Joblink on an ad-hoc basis, helping out at the Help & Advice Desk at the union and at University career fairs. 

I've also worked as a Link to Leeds ambassador at the university, which I believe has been a very useful experience overall - I've met people from all over the world and learnt so much in addition to my course.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

If you're looking to develop your writing in a free and creative space with regular feedback and opportunities coming your way, I would urge you to apply! You will have so many well-written pieces of your own work by the end of the course!

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

I intend to start work in India very soon. As I've already done some writing in professional spaces outside my course, I'm quite certain that the MA in combination with these experiences will ensure big opportunities for me back home. I'm now quite confident about using different narrative forms and I hope to work on exciting projects that both test and encourage my writing skills.