I grew up nearby in Wakefield. Both my mum and brother came to the University of Leeds so it was somewhere I knew well before applying. But there wasn’t any pressure to apply here, I chose Leeds independently based on its advantages as I saw them.
I was first attracted to Leeds because it’s not too far from home but far enough that I could move out of my parent’s house. I also really liked the atmosphere of the university. I think the fact that it’s all on one campus creates a strong feeling of community, as well as being really convenient to get around!
My educational background is strongly weighted towards the sciences and I initially enrolled on a science degree, but quickly realised it wasn’t for me. Changing courses was pretty scary, particularly given how much more essay-based Childhood Studies is compared to anything I’ve done before, but there is so much support available in the department that I was really able to flourish.
The decision to transfer was one of the best I’ve ever made and I feel my experience of university life and what I’ve gained academically have been enriched by following a course I’m really passionate about.
My passion for Childhood Studies
Before starting Childhood Studies I’d had a lot of experience working with children and wanted to be a teacher and I thought the degree would be a good stepping stone to that. I also thought it would provide me with a strong foundation of knowledge of childhood beyond the education system.
I think the study of children and childhood is often overlooked, so to be part of a department which aims to be at the forefront and emphasise such issues has been really inspirational.
The course is incredibly varied, regarding both the study options available within the school and in the wider university as a whole, meaning you can tailor your degree to your interests. I’ve taken electives in French, Japanese and the Politics of Video Games, as well as studying many aspects of childhood from multiple perspectives, which has been enjoyable and beneficial for my future development and career.
I’ve also found the levels of interaction with staff in the school to be one of the course’s strongest points. Tutors are always available to help, both academically and personally, and all seem to be really passionate about childhood studies, making it easier for us to engage with and enjoy the topics being studied.
There is a definite sense of equality within the school with little evidence of hierarchy between staff and students, which I think really helps to facilitate open discussion so all of us get the best out of our university experience.
The University facilities are great, with plenty of computer clusters and well-stocked libraries. There can be a bit of a rush for certain resources around assignment times but there is generally enough of a range that even if a particular book is out of stock, there will be something else similar available. I have found the School of Education’s own computer cluster to be particularly useful, especially during my dissertation as it provided somewhere to work in easy reach of the libraries and academic staff.
Outside of study
The University has a thriving and vibrant Students’ Union which provides a lot of different services and activities for students. I’ve been involved in dance societies and have found them to be a great way to keep up old hobbies, as well as a good way to make new friends who share common interests.
Because of the range of societies, I think finding your niche at university is a lot easier than it was at school as it is likely that, whatever your interests, they will be supported in some way by the union.
Alongside my academic work and involvement in societies, I work in a nursery and do various voluntary placements with children. The fact that most of the teaching is confined to two days of the week means you have plenty of freedom to gain your own practical experience and pursue other interests.
Leeds is a very friendly city, big enough that it has everything you could need (culture, shopping, nightlife ...) but small enough that everywhere is easily accessible and it maintains a welcoming atmosphere.
One of the most important things I’ve learnt is to get involved in things -- you really do get out what you put in. I was student representative for both the second and third years of my course and found that getting involved with the department and building bonds with the staff really enriched my university experience.
As I’m due to graduate this year, I’ve applied to various MA courses but haven’t decided exactly which direction to take my studies in next. The interdisciplinary and academic nature of this course means there are so many options available following graduation.
On starting the course, I was convinced that I would go on to do a PGCE and become a primary school teacher but over the course of these three years I feel my eyes have been opened to such a wide range of possibilities for the future which previously I had no idea existed.
I think I would like to work in research or social/childhood policy analysis. The opportunities and experiences I have had thanks to my degree will definitely be of benefit to this in having provided me with a strong theoretical and practical grounding in so many different aspects of childhood.