Over time, I have found that I really like to travel and meet other people. I was born and raised in Illinois before moving to Indiana for university. I have always been involved in a wide range of activities and enjoy interacting with diverse groups of people.
During my undergraduate degree, I spent a year abroad in Salzburg, Austria where I had a great time, improved my German a considerable amount, and met loads of wonderful people. I found that Europeans traditionally have a different attitude towards life than most Americans and I appreciated the change of pace and focus on independent learning.
After returning to the USA and completing my first degree, I worked briefly as a manager in a retail store. I quickly realised that I wanted something different and so found a masters programme focused on what I loved – leisure and recreation. I worked as a departmental research assistant throughout my masters degree, during which time I was involved in collaborating on multiple interdisciplinary projects, organising conferences, and giving presentations.
I came to the University of Leeds in Autumn 2011 for PhD studies. I have become very involved in the School as a student representative and various activities through the ESSL faculty.
My previous degrees include a BA in International Studies and German from Butler University (2008) and an MS in Recreation Administration from Indiana University Bloomington (2011).
My Motivation to Pursue a PhD
I was completing research for my Masters degree, focused on motivation and experiences of international visitors to a major event, when a couple of professors suggested I should continue on to doctoral work. I had already developed useful primary research skills and realised that I wanted to conduct further research focused on leisure experiences of international students. I knew about the University of Leeds from friends’ recommendations and after initial research decided to apply. I wanted to be at a well-respected institution with quality facilities and a wonderful atmosphere for students at all levels.
My Research Topic
I’m exploring the effects of different types of engagement on the higher education experiences of international students. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the topic, I’ve been looking at the historical development of international education, different national and international approaches to supporting international education experiences, and the implications of current environmental influences.
I plan on using structural equation modelling for analysing and interpreting my research. I'm passionate about this area of study because international students face different challenges than domestic students – new sights, sounds, behaviours, etc. While academic coursework is a primary focus for getting a degree, the student experience is much more complex as different students are engaged in different ways. Focusing on engagement outside the lecture theatre brings my previous academic subjects together as well as my sincere desire to help others to realise their potential.
I have enjoyed my time at the University of Leeds very much so far. Completing a PhD is challenging but my supervisors have been very helpful with my particular area of research and have encouraged me to present my research. I have also made many friends and will have great memories of the experience.
Learning and Research Facilities
The School of Education is quite small but there are good facilities for students with access to multiple computer clusters and offices with workstations set aside specifically for PGR students. There are also great library facilities at the University of Leeds, including the Brotherton and Edward Boyle libraries. There is also additional support and classes available through both the SDDU and the LEAP Skills Hub.
The Research Environment
The research in the School of Education covers many diverse topics and there are many connections, whether through methodology or theory. The support within the school is wonderful, from both staff and administration, and there is also a great level of support from fellow students.
Outside of Studying
I have been directly involved with a number of clubs and societies at the University - EDSOC, the society for the School of Education; orienteering with LUUOC; the Irish Dancing Society; competing in the Varsity biathlon with the triathlon squad; and going regularly to Global Café. Outside the university, I also run with a local running club.
Leeds as a city
Leeds is like any city really – lots of things to do and different things to see. There are a lot of different places to go to enjoy the outdoors and there are also plenty of different shopping areas.
My Advice to Prospective Students
Make sure you definitely want to study your topic, as it will be a primary focus in life during your degree. However, don’t be afraid if your topic changes a bit over the first year. Also, don’t be shy or afraid to introduce yourself to other people (staff and students). Most people are friendly and happy to help if you have any difficulties.
I want to either continue in academia or else work for an IGO or NGO focused on increasing and improving international experiences for students and other individuals. Travelling and interacting with other cultures can be a truly enriching experience.