Portrait of Riva Black

Riva Black

I consider myself to be a religious person (how do you define a ‘religious person’ though? How do you even define ‘religion’? That’s one thing which you learn on the course!), so my initial desire for choosing TRS was one of excitement at having the opportunity to study something as an academically rigorous discipline which is of great relevance to me personally.

The rewarding thing for me about taking an essay-based subject is the sheer independence which it gives me. At secondary school it could sometimes feel that we were being spoon-fed information to memorise and repeat. University is not like that at all. Whilst the lectures and seminars provide us with information, teaching and guidance, the direction we take in an essay is purely our choice. This independence has allowed me to think critically and creatively. The feedback we receive is rigorous and helpful and it enables me to know where my weaknesses lie and constantly seek to improve.

One of the things about my course which I like the most is the large and diverse choice of modules which it has to offer. There are few compulsory modules so there is a lot of room to choose what I want to study.

The module which I have enjoyed the most was the second year module ‘Theology and Ethical Theory’. This module “investigates the relationship between religious and humanist approaches to ethics in contemporary dilemmas and global issues” [in its own words].  We also looked at Applied Ethics (environmental ethics and ethical questions surrounding suicide). By comparing and contrasting religious and secular approaches to these issues we were able to view things from different perspectives and defend different arguments/ways of reasoning.

Often when I tell people what course I’m studying they’ll respond with something like “Oh right so you’re doing Biblical Studies” or “So is that mainly Jesus and Christian Theology?” The answer is that while both of these subjects  feature within the course, Theology and Religious Studies is not restricted to just one main area of study. You can find out more about the modules on offer on the TRS website. 

The learning facilities at the University are really great. The Brotherton and Edward Boyle Libraries contain thousands of books, so you can be sure that you won’t be stuck for choice when it comes to researching a particular topic. If a book is popular then there is more than one copy stocked meaning that you hardly ever have to worry about a book being unavailable. If a book is unavailable then you are able to reserve it. The library website also allows you to access a large number of online journals. 

In terms of extra-curricular activity, I take part in RIXA which is a series of interdisciplinary seminars for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts, run by postgraduate students. RIXA involves engaging with the ideas and arguments of others on a wide spectrum of topics and giving a well justified opinion in response. It helps to improve skills such as critical thinking skills and debating.  Outside of studying I like cooking, running, jewellery making and collage.

Leeds as a city is great. The city centre is within walking distance from the University so it doesn’t take long to get there and it has the new shopping centre Leeds Trinity as well as plenty of high street shops.

To anyone thinking of applying to my course I would say be prepared to read a lot. You really get out of the course what you put into it and whilst reading isn’t the only thing you need to guarantee good grades, it is definitely one of them.