A picture of Shmuel wearing a blue jumper and standing outside Roger Stevens building

Shmuel von Weisl

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I’m a Jewish mature student originally from Manchester and currently living in Leeds. I’m the youngest of 8 (!), married and in my second year of a Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree. 

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

I chose PPE because it offered the perfect mix of subjects that I’m passionate about, combined with complex topics and contemporary issues that I’d love to know more about, as well as opening the door for lots of work and academic opportunities. I also decided on Leeds University because it offered a high standard of academic studies combined with social and community work that really open opportunities as a springboard into post-degree life. The social life in Leeds is super vibrant and fun, with so many different places to go and enjoy!

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

I really enjoy the challenge of learning new ideas and concepts, and PPE offers the widest variety of topics to challenge myself with. There are topics in economics I would never have thought I would want to learn, but now really enjoy delving deep into them and seeing what they offer! Whenever something gets too tough, and I found myself needing a break, I have plenty of options to jump into (such as other politics or philosophy). 

What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most?  

I’ve really enjoyed my philosophy modules this year (moral and epistemology), they were packed with new ideas and thought-provoking concepts that really challenged my views on what I mostly take for granted. The lectures and seminars were a great combination to be introduced to the new ideas and arguments, think about them more with the set reading, and then develop or question my thinking in the seminars. I particularly felt it was relevant in my other modules such as in political theory where understanding moral ideas and beliefs becomes contextually important. In general, I find that most of my modules serve to enrich each other, for example in studying different types of government structures around the world in comparative politics, I better appreciated the effects of politics on the wider economic policy-making process in various countries.

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

The teaching in the School is amazing. The lectures are clear, informative and give you a strong grasp of new topics. There is also space for different types of studying, like applying yourself deeply into one topic, or give an equal approach to a wider range of topics. The mix of seminars and private study allows you enough time for new ideas to settle, and come up with challenges and ways of thinking of your own. Most importantly, the lecturers are really eager for you to approach them with literally any questions after the lecture and in office hours, and are really fun to engage with on the topic and even the course in general! Throughout the University I found that there’s an encouraging atmosphere for learning and engaging with lecturers. It really helps whenever I feel overwhelmed by the different topics and subjects.

Have you worked closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience. 

I met a number of times with my personal tutor (who happens to be the head of the course) throughout my course. I was advised on personal issues in the last semester, as well as just meeting up to discuss the learning, and each time I was really encouraged to develop my ideas further and given lots of resources. When I really struggled with my essay ideas, for instance, it was really nice to talk it over and receive feedback from someone who really knows their stuff! At first it might seem intimidating to approach senior staff, but once you get used to it it becomes a really rewarding and fun experience. 

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

There are hundreds of vibrant societies that are open to all students. I am involved in the new Leeds Think Tank (check out our website: https://leedsthinktank.org.uk) which is a really fun way to discuss and research policy ideas, and to meet new people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Another friend from my course was a lead actor in a Legally Blonde musical show in the Theatre society, and it was easily the best version of the show I’ve seen! 
I am also looking at joining the Jazz and Blues society, it looks really fun and it is very welcoming to people from all musical skills – which is most appropriate for me seeing as I’ve got a lot to improve on guitar and violin! There are far too many to write here, and I encourage all prospective students to check out the LUU page to see the diverse and fun societies there are!

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

Due to the nature of my degree, I’ve got lots of opportunities and paths to choose from, from pursuing a career in academia, to working in the civil service in a number of really significant roles. So far I’ve looked at the diplomatic route in the civil service, though that might change further along the line. One of the factors that really helped the diplomatic route was the vast diversity of international students at Leeds. I have friends from Brazil, Europe, India and China, as well as from around the UK, and I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures – something very much relevant for diplomacy. In addition, every module I’ve taken teaches unique skills that really diversified my CV, for instance practical skills such as learning Excel in Economics, and organisational skills that employers really look for. Beyond that, there are many opportunities to discuss what I want to do with teaching staff who are really eager to advise!

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

I would say to not think and just apply! There are very few courses that combine three different topics to such an extent that you can compete with other single honour students, and even have an advantage with a wider breadth of knowledge! When you will choose your own modules, I guarantee that you will want to be doing most of the modules on offer!