I truly loved my experience as a student at York – so much so that I had a sneaky feeling from the start that I never wanted to leave this inspiring universe of learning!
Having completed my degree in Philosophy and Politics, I went on to do an MPhil in Environmental Policy at Cambridge. The degree concentrated mainly on environmental economics and international environmental law. I thought initially that these would be completely new and different subjects; however, I quickly realised how imperative my background in philosophy and politics was to properly understanding and appreciating these new disciplines. Environmental issues are extremely multifaceted, and so an interdisciplinary background is key in analysing them. My background in philosophy allowed me to better scrutinise legal definitions and concepts, and the ambiguity and logical extensions of legislation. Moreover, my background in politics allowed me to appreciate the limits of law when not enforced or supported politically – something that some of the law graduates had never considered as ‘part of the picture’. Likewise, my background in philosophy made it easier for me to appreciate the limitations and assumptions that economic theory makes. How could you put an accurate monetary value on the environment in a cost-benefit analysis, for example, and was this really ethical? A degree from the School of PEP really challenges you to see things not only from the point of view of another discipline, but to see things holistically from the point of view of several disciplines at the same time. Only then can you really come to understand something properly. This makes PEP students unique and very desirable students and employees.
After my MPhil degree I took a ‘gap year’ working as a communications advisor for six months at the Bergen Resource Centre for International Development (which is a collaborative project between the University of Bergen and the Chr. Michelsen Institute), travelling, and working for the Norwegian Red Cross. Following this, I got an ESRC scholarship to do a PhD on the climate change strategies of political parties. My thirst for knowledge was not yet quenched - and where better to go than where I was first inspired? Coming back to York to do my PhD was the easiest and most natural decision I have ever made. The university is excellent, the staff are friendly and the city is beautiful and busy!
My advice to students starting out their journey at York is twofold: Firstly, take advantage of the excellent extra-curricular activities that the School provides. I was myself involved in student politics and the editorial board of VOX, and these activities were key in landing me summer internships that in turn were influential in landing me a position at Cambridge. Secondly, take the modules that you will enjoy, and don’t simply choose the ones you think will make you the most employable. If you enjoy what you do, you’ll do well and get good results, and this will ensure that no doors are closed to you.