Portrait of John roberts

John Roberts

I’m 20 years old, the youngest of five, and I’m from Ireland.

The world class research that is done at the University was a big selling point when I was looking to apply for university. I want to go into academic research, so I feel Leeds is a great place for that, and the course is fantastic. There is an amazing variety of modules, and directions to studying religion – I feel spoilt for choice!

I’m very interested in the intersections between religion, and culture, especially in transnational contexts and how this has an impact on ethno-religious identity. I like that people can combine religion (especially new religions) with traditional cultural practices, creating new expressions of religiosity, demonstrating the fluid dynamic of both religious and cultural identities and practices. I’m currently doing my undergraduate dissertation on some aspects of the religious literature of the Ethiopian Jews, or Beta Israel, and how this constructs an ethno-religious Jewish identity amongst an ever-growing multicultural world Jewry.  I think growing up in the north of Ireland, and being conscious of the relationship between ‘religion’ and cultural identity, influenced me greatly in my studies.

I love my course, especially because it has given me the opportunity to study new religions, something I had never done before coming to university.  I studied the New Testament and Church History for my A-level in R.E, but my course has allowed me to branch out. Also in my assessment for many of my modules, I was able to orientate my exams/essays to discussions on culture and religion, which allowed me to engage with my research interests to a greater degree. The learning facilities in the School and at the University are fantastic! I love being able to have access to learn almost anything. Even though I study religion, I’m also massively interested in languages; the Language Centre is great in that it’s free and easy to use, with a wide selection of language learning materials. Through the University library website, I can access journals and books that I would maybe not be able to get easily.

I think Leeds as a city is amazing, and there’s always something on. I’ve had the opportunity to attend Bhangra club nights, which has deepened my interest in Punjabi language and culture.  I come from a small town in the north of Ireland where not a lot happens, so having things like Bhangra nights, the Christmas German market and the wonderful various exhibitions,  and the great night life so close, has made living in Leeds more about university.

I think the most suprising thing about coming to Leeds is that I’ve been able to look after myself! I’ve grown up a great deal in the past two years, and I’ve pushed myself a lot. Moving to Leeds has given me independence and the confidence to be able to do things for myself.

Outside my own studies, I am School Rep for Theology and Religious Studies and with other students, faculty members, and administrative staff I am on the Student Staff Forum for the Philosophy, Religion and History of Science school. As for societies, I was Interfaith Rep in my second year, and I know other students that have taken on other roles in societies.  There are many opportunities such as Give It A Go, the University paper, or the radio and TV stations. Outside of studying, I have a part time job which takes up most of my weekends, but I do manage to fit in socialising, whether it is with friends or societies. As I said earlier, I enjoy learning languages, and I’m interested in the promotion of Irish language and culture.

For anyone thinking of applying to TRS at Leeds I would say keep an open mind – I came into first year thinking that I would focus on theology or biblical studies, but now after studying modules on different religions, that’s completely changed. University is not like school, we’re not spoon-fed and we’re expected to do independent work, so being focused is important. We have a great department, and TRS feels like a family.

When I finish my undergraduate degree I hope to continue my studies to postgraduate level, to pursue a career in academia.