Malak El-Gonemy

Malak El-Gonemy

BA Theatre and Performance, MA English Literature (Modern and Contemporary Pathway)

Summary: Over two degrees at Leeds, Malak explored her love of both theatre and the written word, and gained research skills that she has carried into the world of work.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I have always had a passion for reading, and during my time at school this became a desire to study and analyse literature. Similarly, my fascination with watching plays as a young child gradually transitioned into a desire to explore the world of theatre, both behind and in front of the scenes. So it seemed only natural that I would combine the two at university. Being half Egyptian has provided me with access to an entirely different culture of literature, theatre and film, which has been invaluable in terms of expanding the diversity of perspective in my work.

What made you want to apply to your MA course and to Leeds?

I completed my undergraduate degree - BA English Literature and Theatre Studies - at Leeds. It made sense to stay at the university that inspired me to study the subject in the first place, and I wanted to work with the same professors who helped me learn and grow so much during my undergraduate studies. My Masters course has allowed me to discuss the relationship between Modernism and a rising interest in psychology. I was able to chart advances in our knowledge of the mind and the psyche alongside changes in the literary world, which is where my interests are rooted.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Studying the written and the spoken word allows for an in-depth insight into the human mind and how we interact with the world around us; an insight which is all the more fascinating when looking at explorations of “non-normative” experience. Conveying the thoughts and emotions that exist across the vast planes of the human condition proves a constant challenge. There will never be an end to the desire to convey and express the stories that surround us, be that within or beyond the realms of the world we know. The inexhaustible nature of the way in which we use words is what inspires my passion for literature and theatre. 

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

I have enjoyed the freedom I have been offered throughout the course - there have been no limitations placed on me by the School about what I was able to explore. The challenge of finding my own voice within a vast sea of other critical perspectives has been invaluable in allowing me to discover exactly what it is that I’m passionate about. The modules were so varied; I would go from a seminar on psychoanalysis to a discussion about the role of disability studies within the arts. I am immensely grateful that I was able to learn so much in just one year.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

I think Leeds is one of those cities that has so much more to offer than appears to the naked eye. It truly is a cultural hub; there are innumerable hidden gems that come in the form of art galleries, live music events, comedy nights and book clubs. Alternatively, if a good night out is what you’re after then there really is nowhere better - from rooftop bars to underground basements, there is something to suit everyone’s taste. I wouldn’t change my time at Leeds for anything.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

I think the most surprising thing for me was how much you learn and grow outside of your academic studies. I came to the University relatively insecure and lacking confidence in myself and my interests; I wasn’t really sure what I wanted or what mattered to me. I feel like the University is second-to-none in allowing students to experience and learn so many different things, be that via its student-led approach to societies and extra-curricular activities, or the opportunities available throughout the city.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

I honestly can’t fault the University or the School of English, as both have offered incredible support throughout my time here. There is always somebody to speak to, both in terms of academic support and pastoral care. Similarly, access to learning facilities is excellent, especially since the opening of the Laidlaw Library.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

There are so many activities available! I spent my time here heavily involved in the Theatre Group, the University’s oldest established performance society. I directed, produced and acted in multiple shows, through which I have made a vast number of connections and friendships. I also wrote for The Scribe, the University’s arts magazine, reviewing student and professional theatre. I was also a regular member at The Edge, which is honestly the best gym I have ever been to and I miss it so much!

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Get your application in now. It is so easy to talk yourself out of it, be that because of money or time or a lack of belief in your own abilities. But you ultimately only regret the things you didn’t do and the opportunities you didn’t take. It’s one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

What do you plan to do now you've finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

I am currently a trainee researcher working at the BBC on the CBBC show Blue Peter. I was really lucky and secured this position straight after I finished my Masters. Researching was at the heart of both my degrees, and the analytical skills I developed have been invaluable to my current position. Television is extremely demanding in terms of working to tight deadlines, and my studies have provided me with the stamina and determination needed in this industry!