Phoebe Ryan

Phoebe Ryan

BA English Literature, MA Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies

Summary: While studying for her undergraduate degree at Leeds, Phoebe discovered an interest in postcolonial studies that would see her return for postgraduate study.

Overview

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I loved doing the BA English Literature at Leeds so much that I never left the city, and returned to the University for postgraduate study three years after graduating. In the interim I had gotten married, and I've been pregnant while studying for my Masters, so I was writing my dissertation during my first trimester!

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

I became aware of the postcolonial field when I took an Erasmus year to Venice, and went on to focus my undergraduate dissertation in this area, after which I decided to continue exploring it. During my Masters I worked at a Caribbean and Black British publishing house in Leeds called Peepal Tree Press, and I would say in general that Leeds is a brilliant city if you're interested in postcolonialism.

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

I find my field so crucial in today's social and political climate. With tensions bubbling beneath the surface of society, I think it is more important than ever to acknowledge the various histories of countries and peoples across the world, and in particular to understand the highly damaging impact the British Empire had on so many of them. This is history we are not taught in schools, but I think it is absolutely crucial for beginning to understand the standpoint of people from other cultures and backgrounds. Empathy can be the first step towards gaining that understanding, so art is the perfect route through which to explore someone else’s experience – literature really puts you in someone else's shoes.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

I really enjoyed the taught aspect of my course, as it meant my studies had great breadth. This enabled me to discover a real interest in Native American and First Nation literatures which I may not have otherwise had an opportunity to explore academically.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is the best city in the UK! I’m originally from Sheffield, which is only an hour away, so I was surprised that such a gem had been under my nose for so long. It has an amazing independent food and drink scene, an amazing range of shops and experiences, and in 20 minutes you can be on the moors. Leeds has stolen my heart.

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

The postcolonial studies offering at Leeds is world-renowned. If you are interested and involved, you will interact with PhD students, researchers and lecturers, and glean a lot from your time at Leeds outside of the taught elements of your course.

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

I attended a life drawing group throughout my time at Leeds – it is brilliant, and cheap – and I've also tried some sports, from ballet to netball to rugby. There is something for everyone!

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

I don't think you will find such a supportive environment for studying English anywhere else. Do your research and make sure the courses are right for you – but fundamentally, we are blessed to have some amazing teachers here in the School of English at Leeds, and they will spark enthusiasm in you just as much as the course material.

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?

Doing a Masters has reminded me of the rigours of academia, and represents a real step-up from undergraduate learning, with a lot more self-directed study. I also work on a freelance basis, and did so throughout the course, which meant I had to learn to structure my time effectively. I feel that I gained many skills, like these, that I can apply to my working life.