BA (Hons) International Relations and Security Studies (2015) Project Support Officer, Leeds City Council
Why did you apply to the University of Bradford? What was your first impression of the university and the city? What did you enjoy most about your time in Bradford?
I had always wanted to study international relations and when I heard about University of Bradford’s Peace Studies Department, the first of its kind in the world and the department which was going to run the degree programme, I knew that Bradford was the best place for me. Also, the degree’s security component, completely new to me, was another reason. Being taught by leading academics in their field at one of the UK’s and Europe’s most recognised universities for the study of international relations meant that I needed to look no further.
The University was just as I expected it to be, as shown in the show-reel clips. There were a few places such as the library or the Peace Studies Headquarters which I had not seen before coming here, but when getting to visit them for the first time they made an extremely good impression on me. On the other hand the city was a bit dissimilar to what I thought it looked like. The first thought that went through my mind was that Bradford is a city of contrasts. Seeing the beauty of the Alhambra Theatre next to the dereliction of the nearby Odeon Cinema or the impressive Victorian architecture of Bradford College’s Old Building next to the 1960’s-type impersonal and unimpressive classroom building behind it (now demolished) was a dramatic sight for me.
The wide variety of choices in terms of extra-curricular activity was one of the most enjoyable things. There is so much that as a student one can do, that I wouldn’t know where to begin. From being a Student Ambassador to becoming the President of a Society, there’s a whole wealth of options. Plus, I’ve really enjoyed the degree and the great majority of the courses. They’ve enabled me to develop many skills, apart from providing valuable information about what happened when, why and how.
Why did you choose that particular course? What did you like and enjoy most about your course?
I would say that the study of international relations entails knowledge from across multiple fields such as law, economy, geography, history and foreign languages among others. As such, having developed an interest and a certain understanding in these areas, plus a native curiosity to find out more about the mechanisms governing the world, choosing this course was a logical step towards the fulfilment of my ambition of working in the public sector and creating the premises for a future career in the international sector.
My course was always up-to-date and extremely interesting. Although there was an important historical component which contributed to a better understanding of today’s international political, economic and social architecture, recent “hot” events and topics on the international agenda were always the subject of discussion. Moreover, there would be seminar-type events organised by the department, where leading academics would present their opinion on such topics. The overwhelming majority of classes and courses were intellectually stimulating and challenging, providing much food for thought and raising many important issues, always calling into question common assumptions.
What tips would you give to prospective students (about the course at University of Bradford and the university itself)?
I believe that Bradford is among the best places in the UK and Europe where to study international relations as well as a wide variety of related courses in the field of international development, peace studies and security studies. The fact that the world’s first Peace Studies Department was established at the University of Bradford adds much prestige and a different approach towards the study of these areas. The course provides you with all the necessary tools to develop your knowledge and skill-set, setting you in the right direction to become a professional in this field as long as you have enough dedication, ambition and interest.
As with all other courses at the University, what matters is the need to develop your desire of permanently going “the extra mile” which will eventually place you in the career and field of your choice. Despite its clichéd appearance, the expression is as true as it gets, but the University and its Students’ Union can facilitate your involvement in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities to give you that much-needed edge in today’s market, irrespective of your chosen field. It’s totally on you, though, to take advantage of these opportunities.
How did Career Development Services support you during your time at University?
Through their vast wealth of resources in written and electronic format about best practice when building CVs, writing covering letters or participating in an interview to seminars about effective online applications and 1:1 sessions with Career Development Advisers, the Career Development Services was always there when I needed most. Booking my place to such seminars and sessions was extremely easy as well as setting up individual sessions with Advisers.
An extremely important role in my professional development was also played by the Summer Experience Programme organised by the Career Development Services whereby students spend six weeks of their summer holiday interning for a local business or organisation. Having had the chance of taking part in this programme I developed a range of essential skills which eventually proved very useful in starting my career.
Tell us about your current job.
As a Project Support Officer for Leeds City Council since Sept 2015, my main role is to assist with work in the department where I have been placed. This work ranges from researching and analysing Council policies and development plans to providing input during assessment meetings and appraisals and participating in various cross-council projects in order to fulfil Leeds ambitions of becoming the Best City and Best Council in the UK by 2030. Since my department is tasked with the improvement of the Council’s services, I have been given the chance of working with a number of other departments in their projects, thus providing for a challenging and diverse work environment.
What action did you take to improve your employability whilst at University?
I have made sure to take advantage of all the opportunities offered by the University and the Students’ Union to improve my skills and acquire valuable knowledge. For example while studying, I undertook part-time work by acting as Student Learning Champion at the University’s Library which entailed working in a customer service environment and making extensive use of verbal communication skills.
Moreover, I stood and won the elections for the Executive Committee of University of Bradford's Romanian Society, becoming its President. Besides being actively involved in university life, I have also sought to develop in those areas in which I felt weaker, especially in terms of writing covering letters and answering job interview questions. In this respect I made extensive use of the resources present at the Career Development Services as well as booking appointments with Advisers and striving to participate at the majority of information sessions organised by the CDS. Also, whenever there were Careers Fairs, I would enquire with the representatives of the participating organisations regarding the skills they were seeking and aiming to enhance those abilities which I felt would enable me to approach the career path which I had envisaged for myself.
What advice would you give to current students wishing to enter this type of career?
It is essential that you adopt and safeguard for yourselves a very proactive stance towards your development. This means becoming actively involved in Sports and Societies, volunteering, working part-time as well as making the most out of every opportunity which is out there.
I would say that a good degree complemented by a constant effort to develop multilaterally, exemplified through the involvement in a variety of activities throughout the years at university is the best ticket to entering such a career. The more you’re able to demonstrate the skills that the employer is looking for, the more confident and ambitious you are, the more appealing you will be to them, thus unmistakably getting you in such a position.
Also, one important tip is to strive to develop and put forward that unique skill or experience you have previously acquired or had. It could be anything as long as it has even a slight tangent with what the employer wants. You will make them curious and wanting to find out more about you.