“Only a Scouser can get the Tube talking” Life after Liverpool and some reflections

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By Dan Wilberforce

BSc Geography (Class of 2013)

So I’m sitting on the London Underground listening to a more-than-slightly-tipsy-Londoner complaining about minicab companies, the pitfalls of the new Hackney Carriage and the reason why he never uses the Tube anyway. It never runs on time, it’s too cramped, the seats smell…”Northern Line this, Northern Line that….”The people of this particular cramped Tube car, on this particular Thursday in January react in the typical London way to the guy’s blusters; awkward shuffles of annoyance, sideways dagger glances and sighs galore…but undoubtedly and perhaps predictably an overwhelmingly apathetic tone triumphs amongst the victims of London’s evening rat-race.

Things weren’t looking like they were going to improve much, when from the corner of the carriage a familiar and welcome accent makes a lively appearance in the form of a small stocky Scouser, resplendent in merchandise from Liverpool FCs official store.

‘Hey mate!’ hollered the Red, catching our evening in-car entertainment’s attention. ‘Shut up will ya, … you’re really doing me nut in. I’m sure we’ve all had a long day and listening to you is seriously down the list of ideal commute options.’

From the eyes wide, slightly panicky astonishment gripping the face of the perpetrator, this sudden outburst of heart-on-sleeve honesty shocked and certainly thwarted any continuation of that specific evening lecture; and the reaction of the crowd was no less brilliant. Visible displays of relief started spreading across the faces of the other car passengers, then that relief turned to joy… and then energy. Soon the carriage was buzzing and people actually started talking to each other. It was great to see, and it all started with a Scouse bloke lightening the mood with a bit of ‘everyone else was thinking it, I just said it’ attitude.

This got me thinking about my time in Liverpool and the energy the city has, the days of Bold Street Coffee, Leaf and Heebies; reasonable rent, ‘8 Days a Week’ all day breakfasts, News from Nowhere, cheap gigs, quad vods, BBQs in the Park, and of course the fact that you knew what you were going to do for at least three years. When you’re in the moment, enjoying (or not) the security of a commitment to something that takes time, it’s easy to overlook the peace of mind that it provides, and consequently not take advantage of that security in a more proactive way. So when Pete North asked me to write a bit about my experiences post Liverpool, and buzzing with nostalgia after the ‘Scouser on the Tube’ episode, I thought I might try and offer some insights and reflections that I and some of my friends have had as a postgrad.

I have recently completed an MSc in Human Rights at the LSE, which is granted a bit more than a hop skip and a jump (subject wise) from the BSc in Geography that I took at Liverpool. Though Geography does have this knack of being very good at providing rounded skill sets. Nonetheless, the masters was challenging; a year of intensive study, meeting people, a new city (that is considerably more expensive than Liverpool), starting to think more in sociological terms than paleoclimatological ones, all whilst trying to find a niche that would suit my new found, slightly abstract collection of qualifications. However, to finish a masters degree and then find myself unable to get anything other than an unpaid internship in any of the related fields was an obstacle that I had not predicted, and actually turned out to be the hardest period of my academic/work related life to date. But it was my fault, and it could have mostly been avoided. See, I was under the impression that I would be able to walk out of the those graduation doors, slam the degrees down on the CV and let the job offers role in, or at least get some interest from something interesting.

I got a linkedIn email from a small recruitment firm in Wandsworth.

I didn’t understand. So I started sending off application after application, CV after CV, cover letter after cover letter….. 20 applications, 30, 40 , 50….

What I became increasingly aware of was the fact that I hadn’t used my time, my exposure to academics, my access to career services or peers as effectively as I might have. Lots of people around me were getting good roles, paid ones, loads of responsibility, challenging positions…what did they have that I didn’t? In reality it was what they had done, as well as what they had. They had spent time developing relationships with various different professionals, as well as people their own age that were interested in roughly similar trajectories. Also something that became apparent was that people had multiple potential routes and aspirations, there was and still is little need to nail one’s flag to the mast so early on, though it does help to work within some relatively refined parameters. This takes me back to the time available to one when studying for a bachelors degree. You have long holidays and plenty of time during term to explore different potential routes for after you graduate. You can use the holidays to do a few short internships, get to know some people in the industries or sectors that interest you, because it is these relationships that open the doors later on. It doesn’t have to take up the whole holiday, just a week or three. Any work put in early on will certainly pay off later on. If finding these connections is a bit daunting, try the professors, try the careers service, the more you put in to finding and developing these early networks…the easier it will be to actually get a fulfilling role. This also applies just as much to any masters level preparation or participation, although I found it harder to find the time during a masters degree.

I am saying this from personal experience and observation… You can work very hard, get a very good degree, but the guy/girl who has made the extra effort to show interest and demonstrate ability to potential employers will be ahead by a decent margin; and it’s very competitive out there right now….don’t be fooled by the zero hour contract revised stats, jobs are hard to find. Also this sort of planning is what you will start doing when starting to work full time. People may start bandying around words like nepotism, brown-nosing and favouritism. But this isn’t what building a network is. Building a network is about finding likeminded people within all age brackets that you can help and that can help you, it is about co-operation and mutual benefit, it is essential in the modern work environment and something you do anyway, though probably in a more social capacity. However, avoid at all costs being way too keen, it just annoys people.

Another thing to try is exploring more people within societies or different social groups at uni. I know most of my extended group of mates focused around groups formed in Halls, but there are so many people around. If you want to find people with big ideas, unless you’re lucky, they probably won’t just appear.

And lastly, do talk to your professors and lecturers. They really do have a tonne of experience in a huge range of areas. I know so many people who went through their entire undergraduate degree (and even masters) without really having a proper chat to the academics at their institution. Don’t do that. You’ll find most of them drink beer, and picking their brains (if they have the time) over a pint is always a good way to find out more about opportunities that interest you.

So all these things, are all undertakings that I’ve been trying to do with more frequency towards the end of my masters and upon completion. I have been interning for various Human rights NGOs, writing some articles for small newspapers, taking testimonies from Darfuri genocide victims, helping to organise attendees for the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations, attempting to recruit SMEs into custom Corporate Social Responsibility schemes (especially payroll giving), and trying to play a bit of music on the side. I’m also trying to start a social enterprise that provides legal assistance and safe-housing for sex trafficking victims in the UK, but funding seems to be the big next question (guess it’s a watch this space type thing).

I hope that some of these little insights prove helpful for anyone who reads this. I hope it wasn’t too prescriptive, but reading a little chronology about what I’ve been doing might have been a little bland. Liverpool is still without a doubt my favourite city in the UK. I come back as often as I can, and I’m sure that will be the case for years to come. If you’re there, soak up the atmosphere and energy, its good for the soul!

Postdoctoral Research Associate job opportunity

Come join the team at Liverpool Geography! We are seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate to work on a recently awarded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Secondary Data Analysis Initiative Phase 2 project ‘Population Change and Geographic Inequalities in the UK, 1971-2011’. You will join the project team (Principal Investigator Dr Chris Lloyd; Co-Investigators Drs Gemma CatneyAlex Singleton and Paul Williamson) to explore geographic inequalities in the UK and how these have changed over the last 40 years. The project will involve the development of a set of population surfaces for a wide array of socio-economic and demographic variables for the UK Censuses of 1971-2011. These population surfaces enable the assessment of changes over small geographical areas. The production of surfaces will allow detailed analysis of, for example, the persistence of social deprivation at the neighbourhood scale or the ways in which housing tenures have changed across the regions of the UK.

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You should have a PhD in Population Geography, Geographic Information Science, or the broader Social Sciences (with a quantitative focus). Experience in manipulating large datasets and some programming experience would also be desirable.

The post is available until 31st July 2016. Deadline for applications: 23rd January 2015. For more information and to apply see http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AKG036/postdoctoral-research-associate/

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

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As we enter 2015 we look back at the top 10 most viewed blog posts of 2015. These include posts by current and past undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff and give a good idea of some of the things that we do here in Geography at University of Liverpool. We look forward to more posts in 2015 and wish you all a happy new year.

 

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10. In Tenth place, a post from February 2014 by PhD student Madeleine Gustavsson on her first publication: First publication – ‘Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania’

 

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9. In Ninth place, a post from June 2014 by James Wilford who graduated with a BA (Hons) Geography in July this year on the Singapore Field Class 2014

 

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8. In Eighth place, a post from June 2014 by Dr. Paul Williamson on the winners of the Edinburgh Field Class 2014 Photo Competition

 

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7. In Seventh place, a post from May 2014 by Samantha Brannan who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year on Geographers on Tour: Santa Cruz Field Class 2014

 

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6. In sixth place, a post from January 2014 about Lisa Reilly who graduated in July this year about her success as National Student Award Winner

 

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5. In Fifth place, a post from December 2014 by Dr Bethan Evans on a Disability, Arts and Wellbeing Workshop with DaDaFest

 

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4. In Fourth place, a post from October 2014 by Sean Dunn who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year and is now studying for an MSc. His post is about the final year Santa Cruz field class on California Field Class and Travel

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3. In Third place, a post from August 2014 by Alexandra Guy, currently a second year BA Geography student on A Year in the Life of an Undergraduate Geography Student

 

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2. In Second Place, a post from August 2014 by PhD student Natalie Robinson on her research with homeless people in Chicago ‘This is My Story: A Photographic Exploration of Chicago’ – Notes from the field.

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1. And in First place, our most viewed blog of 2014 is a post from February 2014 by Jonny Clark who graduated in July with a BSc (Hons) Geography on How a work-based dissertation re-affirmed my confidence in my subject, my own ability and my future

My internship at Barnado’s

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Blog post by Emma O’Connor, final year BA Geography student

Having spent weeks thinking about how I am going to spend my summer, I thought it was probably best to gain some work experience, considering I was going to be starting my final year of University in September and still had no idea what I wanted to do when I left! After checking the university’s CareerHub, I discovered that there were so many opportunities available to students and came across my internship advertised on the website.

I spent this summer working as an intern for the children’s charity Barnardo’s. During my 12 weeks working in the VIP team, there was never a dull moment.  My main project throughout the summer was to secure celebrity prizes (very exciting) for the annual Firecracker Ball. With previous prizes including a meet and greet with Daniel Craig, expectations were high and the pressure was on.  Emailing and liaising with agents and publicists became daily tasks and at times very frustrating but once I secured my first prize, the rest kept coming! With prizes from Michael Bublé and McIntyre, I am sure that the ball will be nothing less than a success!

During my time at Barnardo’s I also worked on some of the main events over the summer, including the Young Supporters Concert which was held at the Royal Albert Hall. Throughout the day, my responsibilities ranged from organising the thousands of children through the dress rehearsal (without a doubt the most hectic hours of my life), briefing the celebrity presenter, helping with photography and ensuring that the event ran smoothly. The event was a huge success and having been a part of it from the beginning to the end, I learnt how much time and planning goes into these fundraising events but after working a 12 hour day, I was beyond relieved when it finished!

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As part of the internship scheme, the interns were given the opportunity to join the development board, where they could organise and run their own fundraising events. During out 12 weeks, we held two fundraising events which were both hugely successful. The first was a Barnardo’s Summer BBQ Fete. I was head of the entertainment committee which meant that my responsibilities included deciding on the stalls, including a photo booth, wellie toss and penalty shootout (summer fete classics!). We were also in charge of the music and prizes. Who knew there was so much red tape to go through when organising an event?! The second fundraising event we held was a comedy night which was one of the most successful development board events ever! This was so much fun and was a great opportunity for all the interns to get to know each other!

The internship offered two insight days throughout the summer. The first was a service visit to ‘The Hub’ which is an alternative educational provision, aimed at improving attendance and encouraging involvement in education and community life for those at risk of social exclusion and young mothers. This gave me the opportunity to really see and understand what the charity does and how they help children at risk. It was really insightful and was definitely a highlight of my internship! The second insight day was a CV and Interview training day. This was the opportunity for all the interns to receive feedback on their CV’s and advice on interview techniques. This was an invaluable opportunity that Barnardo’s offered the interns and I will no doubt be taking everything I learnt from it away with me. The CEO of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, also came and spoke to us, giving us valuable advice on how to succeed in our future.

My internship at Barnardo’s was an amazing experience and I learnt so much from my time there. Although, most importantly, I can say that I emailed Michael Bublé’s…agent!

A Year in the Life of an Undergraduate Geography Student

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Post by Alexandra Guy – about to start year 2 BA Geography

Before I visited the UCAS Higher Education Conference at Liverpool, I’d had my sights set on a university elsewhere. Being from Merseyside, I didn’t intend on staying local for uni, however, I was finding it really difficult to find a geography course that I could tailor to my interests. It was at the HE Conference that I discovered that Liverpool offers exactly that, and, one year on, I’ve just completed my first year of the BA Geography degree.

Our field trip to Wales in October was a really interesting way to start the course. We were given a list of topics to research in groups, alongside larger group activities like a debate, and then put together all our findings into a poster presentation once we got back to uni. I enjoyed the independence we were given during the field work, which continued throughout the year. There’s also a module that involves field work in Liverpool (Human Geography through Merseyside), which involved using observations from around the city to create unusual projects like an exhibition for a museum and a brochure for tourists. I was surprised to find that not all the field work and coursework related to it was essay based – it kept things interesting throughout the year by having a variety of essays and presentations combined with more creative tasks.

Photos from Liverpool field work

However, my favourite module (Research Frontiers in Human Geography) involved a series of lectures on the recent work staff in the geography department have been carrying out, in areas such as cultural geography and geopolitics. We then had to relate this research to a recent story in the news, for an assessed group presentation. This introduced us to areas of geography we had never studied before, while highlighting its relevance to contemporary issues – making deciding what modules to study in second year a lot easier. I’ve been able to identify exactly what areas of geography interest me, and I’m looking forward to focussing on them in second year, particularly with my optional modules in Social and Cultural Geography and Political Economies of Globalisation.

Support in the department is second to none, due to the fortnightly small group tutorials with a member of staff. These sessions helped me get used to university-style studying – knowing that I have a member of staff available for me to chat to or send a quick email to, regarding everything from academic advice to careers, has made such a difference to my first year and has really helped me settle in to university life well. From my friends at other universities, I’ve heard that this kind of support is quite rare, so I know I made the right decision to come to Liverpool! There’s also support with pretty much everything else outside of the department too – Liverpool Student Homes were a great help during my search for a house for second year, and the Financial Support Team were invaluable while I was trying to reapply for student finance.

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Shanghai

A geography degree also gives you plenty of opportunities outside of your course to develop your CV and help you relate geography to potential careers. Thanks to a reference from my tutor and the support of the Careers and Employability Service, I was selected by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to take part in the Government’s Study China Programme. I spent Easter at Zhejiang University, near Shanghai, studying Mandarin and political changes in Asia, with students from across the country. Additionally, the amount of group work I’ve done this year has proven useful in job applications – team work is a key skill that employers look for, and it’s partly thanks to this that I’ve secured a part time job acting as a student rep for the company I hope to work for after graduation.

Receiving my certificate of completion from the Chancellor

Receiving my certificate of completion from the Chancellor at Zhejiang University

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Liverpool to anyone considering studying Geography.

Opportunity knocks for Woman scientists: maximise your voice

By Karen Halsall (PhD Researcher in Geography and Planning)

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, the new presenter of the Sky at Night

For me, giving presentations is a nerve-racking experience. Although it could be worse, according to Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, the new presenter of the Sky at Night, En Hudu Anan, the first woman Astronomer and Babylonian High Priestess had to wear a beard when presenting her studies on the stars so that she looked more like a man. Personally, I am always keen to improve my presentation skills and have often resorted to hiding behind rustling papers and a plethora of PowerPoint slides but perhaps a beard would be one step too far! So I was very pleased to receive a grant from Athena Swan (Charter for women in science: Recognising commitment to advancing woman’s careers in STEMM academia http://www.athenaswan.org.uk) to attend a one day course led by Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Screenhouse Film Company.

The day was in two sections; the morning was spent listening to Maggie and the producer presenting very useful and insightful information into some of the pitfalls and highlights of ‘being on the telly’ with clips of various science experts on news programmes. We also heard that women are currently being sought after by journalists to comment on topical science stories. One of the delegates at the course said she was already promoting herself in this way to the chagrin of her colleagues as she was away from her desk so much! During the afternoon, we were filmed 3 times presenting a 90 second story of our own choosing – no script mostly off the cuff talking. We got feedback after each review on how to improve speech pace, energy and non-verbal skills. This was very useful. I practiced controlling the talk by leaving a few seconds silence between sections (also a useful opportunity to breathe). We talked about the merits of gesticulating and I found that it’s OK to let your arms/hands join in.

So why, you may be asking, is this women only course necessary? Recent research has highlighted that many young female students are not choosing science subjects at A Level. Maggie said “This is because there can be a lack of female role models in schools and that some female students have misconceptions about science being for people who are socially inept”. (Maggie works freelance as a Science Communicator promoting science in schools). So this course was set up to encourage/train more female scientists to stick their head above the parapet and discuss their newsworthy scientific research in a way that is understandable to non-experts.

The day encouraged us to look for opportunities to become more media savvy. For example; by presenting at science fairs, writing press releases and writing blogs (e.g. www.thewomensroom.org.uk/ and www.hersay.co.uk). We gained an insight into the work of a currently sought after scientific expert, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and I picked up some useful tips that will (hopefully) improve my presentations. So it was all together a useful day that I would recommend to other women. It has certainly encouraged me to look out for opportunities to share my research with a wider audience and the value of being skilled in interpreting and communicating complex scientific concepts to non-experts; so thank you Athena Swan! .

Athena Swan (Charter for woman in science: Recognising commitment to advancing woman’s careers in STEMM academia) supported me by paying for registration and travel through a competitive application. Are you already media savvy? If you are not like Professor Alan King and more like Maggie in this News Night clip then now is the time to be an opportunist!

How a work-based dissertation re-affirmed my confidence in my subject, my own ability and my future

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Post by Jonathon Clark, 3rd Year BSc Geography

The second semester of my second year saw the onset of what all geography undergraduates regard with terror, mystique and possibly a touch of (occasionally) misguided optimism: the Dissertation.

Initially, I felt secure – buoyant amongst a cohort of geography students in the same sea of chaos. The BA-inclined were all scrambling to draw up questionnaires for unsuspecting members of the public. The eager physical scientists in the making immersed in geological maps, ready to snap the perfect Facebook profile picture of them standing triumphantly over a patch of ground they had cored, blasted with an XRF spectrometer and talked about in what could be their first pitch to the scientific community. However, I soon found myself falling behind in the race to have my proposal accepted. The deadline for the proposal loomed, drawing ever closer. My page was still blank. With a sense of impending castastrophe for not only my grades but also my pride, I questioned myself thoroughly. Have I suddenly fallen behind? Am I not as intelligent? Does my brain work differently? Is this the sign that maybe this whole thing isn’t for me? It got that dire.

My logic led me to think about what particular aspects of geography appeal most to me. I have never identified myself as purely a physical or human geographer. Rather, from the first geography lesson I sat in my A Level class, I recognised that geography holds a unique selling point over any other subject taught in academia. No, not its so often bragged about breadth and depth, or its great fieldtrips, but its ability as a discipline to be studied not only for the sole purpose of expanding knowledge of socio-economic trends or physical phenomena but also integrating this knowledge to provide solutions to problems which can affect hundreds of thousands of people, every single day. Great! But how can I translate this interest and passion into a feasible project to carry out in the field? I recognised there were several options open to me. Why not see how different rungs of society in Liverpool feel about climate change? Why not see if austerity is impacting wildlife preservation in the Sefton coast? How has political instability in the Middle East affected the renewable energy industry in Britain? It’s strange; looking back, all of these ideas were actually quite possible. Yet, at the time, in the stress of the moment, I felt like there was an overwhelming amount of scale and work involved in pursuing any of these avenues. It seemed I’d taken one step forwards and two steps back…

Hands up if you’re guilty of sometimes clicking delete loads of times to get through a large backlog of e-mails! I know I’ve done it. This particular day, however, I was lucky to not do this as I received an e-mail from Andy Plater regarding work placements available over summer, which could convert into work-based dissertations. I had heard about work-based dissertations in a lecture earlier in the year and dismissed it as a complicated, paperwork-laden option for completing my dissertation. This dismissal was reinforced by the naive belief I held at the time which led me to falsely trust I could come up with a piece of original research on the spot. One of the placements Andy talked about in the e-mail was at a social enterprise recycling company based in Huyton, called Elixir. I read on to learn about what would eventually become a significant part of my life.

Close up gran pick beltElixir was founded by Ben Donnelly as a company which employed ex-offenders, addicts and those who have been out of work for prolonged periods. At their plant, they recycle waste PVCu plastic from the construction industry. Through shredding and granulating it and then shipping it on to manufacturers, the PVCu is completely recycled with zero waste to landfill. The story of the company’s creation really struck a chord with me, and the nature of their environmental and social work appealed to me. Ben had contacted Andy as well as the Centre for Global Eco Innovation (CGE) – a venture run by the universities of Lancaster and Liverpool as well as the commercialisation firm Inventya. Based on the first floor of the Roxby, they normally deal with small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who have an environmental focus to their work. The universities provide enable the companies to host dedicated graduate researchers and to gain access to research and development facilities to allow the companies to develop new economically sustainable or beneficial products. In the case of Elixir, no postgraduate student had been found at the time to quite suit the nature of the work they were undertaking; Elixir sought to expand from recycling just PVCu to also recycling other types of plastic waste, as well as potentially recycling electronic waste and looking into setting up a renewable energy project.

After a short but intense series of discussions regarding what work I would be undertaking during my internship and how it would produce an academic piece that would constitute a dissertation, the interested parties came to an agreement that I would assist Elixir in setting up a facility at their plant which could process waste LCD televisions and computer monitors. On the academic front, I would employ knowledge of ecosystems and environmental planning to produce an environmental impact assessment and life-cycle analysis of the waste screens.

Shred in magIt was a great relief to have other experienced people steer me in what I would write such a lengthy piece of work about. Through the assistance of Matt Fulton, the CGE project manager, the paperwork involved was minimal. Aside from the regular dissertation proposal I only needed complete some insurance documents and a learning agreement. I also quickly realised that I was gaining valuable experience in an industry closely related to my degree subject. Such experience is highly valued by graduate employers and gave me an edge over my peers who may have edged me out in the game of raw marks, chasing that elusive first class honours degree. It was reassuring.

1798458_3973871241712_1373085539_nThe work itself was a combination of office duties, finance and business report tasks akin to an assistant managerial level and also some hands on work in the plant using machinery and working with the lads on the factory floor. It was insightful, educational, useful and, best of all, fun. Working in such a company let me network with key authoritative figures in UK recycling, energy and environmental bodies and companies. It also let me meet some amazing people who have come from the most horrendous backgrounds possible in this country and overcome challenges that cause you to reflect on how lucky you are to have family, friends, health, food and shelter. After 4 weeks of work over the summer, which culminated in a boardroom presentation to managing directors and investors, I was relieved to see my research and designs given approval and investment (after some minor adjustments – I can’t say I’m ashamed about not knowing what the difference between revenue and profit was, having never touched business studies in my life!). This paved the way for me to take a break from Elixir and use my rapidly approaching first semester of third year to focus on completing the academic element of my dissertation. The summary report and skills diary which compose one third of the work-based dissertation module were completed on the job – another huge benefit if you’re someone who is less academically inclined and more oriented towards reports and action plans as well as practical learning.

Gran bag stand with mattyWith the dissertation progressing smoothly, I was delighted to receive a call from Ben offering me part-time work for the remainder of my degree at the company. Spending a few hours a week at Elixir now allows me to manage the operation I tended to from its design stage right up to its present stage of operation. I can now call myself the proud Waste Electronic Development Manager of a company which is processing several tons of electronic waste per week, which would have otherwise contaminated landfill sites and ecosystems with the harmful mercury and lead contaminants such waste electronic goods contain. The added financial bonus to this work is also helping me pay for my final year fieldtrip to California. It’s truly a win-win situation.

Vib 2Hopefully, this post has cast some light on how a work-based dissertation can be so advantageous to an undergraduate student. It’s no exaggeration to say that it shapes you personally as well as academically. Even if the added fun of this doesn’t interest you and you are dead set on logging pollen in samples from the hills of North Wales or the dissertation seems so far off, perhaps this has given you some insight into the highs and lows and mental battles that you can encounter as you enter the twilight of your degree. I hope to add to this post in the not-too-distant future, where I feel the experiences I have detailed here will help me take a leap into the world of work and benefit me even further.

Dream big and work hard.
Jonny

By the way – I got a first (provisionally)!!

First Year Student’s Perspectives on what a Sustainable Liverpool Looks Like

Post by Dr Alex Nurse

A few weeks ago, Pete North and I ran a seminar with the first year students taking the ‘Living With Environmental Change’ module.  Following discussions about what makes a sustainable city, we wanted to see what the first years themselves thought about what Liverpool was doing both right and wrong, as well as what it could do moving forward.

To help us, we used the World Cafe model of discussion, breaking into seven groups, each with a specific topic.  They were decided by the key areas for action identified in the recently published Environmental Audit of Liverpool, which in turn became key focus areas for the city’s new Green Partnership.

Those areas were: Energy, Transport, Green Infrastructure, CO2 emissions, Eco-Innovation and Waste/recycling.  We also added an extra table discussing the City’s overall priorities.After that, we set the students to it – taking ten minutes on each table to discuss their thoughts, writing down their best ideas for those who would follow.

Student ideas about Waste & Recycling

Student ideas about Waste & Recycling

We felt that there some excellent ideas and some great examples of forward thinking that could really benefit the city.  One example included a shift to consider wastefulness alongside traditional conceptions of waste/recycling, with the group suggesting greater use of clothes/food banks. Whilst the students weren’t fans of the recent move by the City Council to suspend Liverpool’s bus lanes, they were excited by the prospect of the Scouscycles bike hire scheme.  Similarly they had numerous ideas that the city could adopt to encourage the more efficient use of transport such as car-pool lanes and they were very keen for the rollout of Merseytravel’s Walrus Card (the Liverpool equivalent of the Oyster Card) to be completed.

Eco-Innovation Ideas from the students

Eco-Innovation Ideas from the students

In the coming months, Low Carbon Liverpool will have the opportunity to present evidence to the upcoming Mayoral Commission on the Environment, as well as continuing to feed into the activity of the Liverpool Green Partnership.  We plan to use some of those best ideas to help shape the evidence that we present, and hope that some of them may be realised.

For more information on Low Carbon Liverpool, or to find out how to get involved, please visit www.lowcarbonliverpool.com

Welshcakes in Westminster: Student Dissertation Research

Continuing our series of posts on current student dissertation projects, here, Nia Bevan, a 3rd Year BA Geography student, reflects on doing research with political elites in Wales & Westminster.

“This summer doing my dissertation research presented me with an exciting opportunity to better understand the intricacies of the UK’s constitutional system of divided competence. Welsh devolution has long been of interest to me as debates regarding independence and autonomy are certainly a hot topic within the Bevan household. Devolution in Wales presents a truly unique chance for political geography to be involved in helping shape and understand a political legacy through research into legislation, jurisdictions and constitutional reform. My dissertation research led me to interview Welsh Members of Parliament and Assembly Members in order to ascertain whether Wales is correctly represented within Westminster today.

Wales has always had a prominent place in Westminster. The presence of the statue of (Welsh) former prime minister David Lloyd George in the Members Lobby that is touched by MPs for luck each time they enter the House of Commons exemplifies this. It seems that we Welsh are a nation of high achievers within parliamentary history – as proved by the only MP to have served in the four great offices of state, James Callaghan. Decentralisation however has signified a questionable era for Welsh elected representatives. Contentions have been made by various (mostly English) MPs about the constitutional imbalance between the traditional nations which make up the UK. The current home rule system has long produced complex and contentious arguments about the fairness of the administrative system. From an academic point of view, these changes and disputes present an interesting case study to understand electoral politics and geopolitical dynamics within the United Kingdom.

Lloyd George and Churchill's statues in the Member's lobby of Parliament in Barack Obama's recent visit to the UK (Catherine Bebbington/Parliamentary copyright).

Lloyd George and Churchill’s statues in the Member’s lobby of Parliament in Barack Obama’s recent visit to the UK (Catherine Bebbington/Parliamentary copyright).

In order to obtain qualitative data on this topic I decided to interview various parliamentary figures within Welsh politics. Finding interviewees was a long and sometimes crushing experience. Rejection after rejection meant that at one point my ‘summer doing research’ looked like it was about to turn into a summer of trying to think of another research idea. Fortunately for me (and my grades), the months of emailing paid off and I managed to secure 10 interviews with Welsh MPs and 6 with AMs in Ty Hŷwel, a Welsh Assembly Building in Cardiff.

Over the course of the research work, interviewing certainly became a lot easier. Looking back at my first interview with the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Owen Smith, I cringe at the thought of the awkward and dense questions I asked. Interviewing incumbent members that have extensively contributed to the current parliamentary domain can be extremely nerve-wracking. Trying to madly work out political terms such as ‘asymmetrical devolution’ or ‘Barnett consequentials’ whilst also trying not to cry is definitely harder than it looks. However after a panicky few days of reading my sister’s law books, exhausting the use of www.thefreedictionary.com and asking my dad politics questions every two minutes, the interviews gradually become easier each time. The last interview (with Member of Parliament for Caerphilly, Wayne David) went far more smoothly. It highlighted how much I had learnt from the process both in understanding the constitutional organisation and processes of Westminster as well as helping me work out where Wales sat within national and international politics. Of course I have learnt a lot more than simply academic material; I have also learnt life-long skills that I’m sure will assist me in my future endeavours. Most notably, this summer has taught me how to dress. This may seem odd as outfit picking and Welsh devolution have little correlation to each other. Nevertheless, sitting in the waiting room of Portcullis House in jeans, T-shirt and scruffy boots whilst everyone around you looks like candidates for ‘The Apprentice’ definitely gives you the motivation to buy some tidy trousers.

1st attempt at an interview outfit...

1st attempt at an interview outfit…

On reflection, the overall experience of data collecting was great. It was an excellent opportunity to see first hand what our elective representatives do on a day-to-day level. Additionally my summer with various Welsh elected representatives reinforced my political views with regards to devolution and independence as well as general politics. Furthermore the data collection process led to some interesting work experience this summer. Having interviewed a range of MPs and AMs, I was fortunate to secure a few weeks of work experience with Leanne Wood (Leader of Plaid Cymru), and with the Welsh Conservative Party in Cardiff Bay, as well as a research opportunity with a local MP.

This summer has been a great summer of firsts for me having completed my first ever solo research collection project, bought my first ever ‘work outfit’, eaten my first ever welshcake in Westminster, met the First Minister of Wales and now completed my first ever blog. I can now sit and watch Welsh Questions, First Minister’s Questions or relevant political interview shows on TV and can say ‘I’ve met him / her’. But more than anything, this summer has finally given me a (vague) idea of what I can do after my student life comes to an end.

Many can relate to the horror that third year students associate with the word ‘dissertation’ but in my experience the dread and fear is definitely overrated. If anything it turned out to be a piece of (welsh)cake.”

Welshcakes

Welshcakes

Liverpool Geography Student studying at the University of Hong Kong

The first month studying at the University of Hong Kong has flown by.

As I stepped off the airplane –the heat, humidity and busy nature of Hong Kong was overwhelming. Arriving at the Halls of Residence where I am staying was easy and stress free. Living in a 16-floored high rise building for a semester is still a surreal concept, but being part of hall life here is a unique experience. The first week consisted of the local students practicing hall songs and chants at 6am every day. Sports teams and cultural teams are taken very seriously and the inter–hall competitions are extremely competitive. The halls I am living in consists of 300 students, 5 of us are international exchange students. The local students are very welcoming, helping the exchange students to embrace their culture. The international community is large – on the first week there were multiple orientation events for the international students – enabling us to meet other exchange students from all over the world.

View of the Hong Kong Skyline from the Peak

View of the Hong Kong Skyline from the Peak

The HKU campus is on Hong Kong Island and has great accessibility to the rest of Hong Kong.  The campus itself is very modern, the geography department is situated in the Centennial Campus which was built two years ago. A lot of Hong Kong is built on hills and steep regions and the HKU campus is no different. It is built on different levels – making it very hard to navigate around it. I still get lost going to the same lecture theatres every week. The lecture style here is similar to Liverpool, however there is less group work here in Hong Kong, the classes that I am enrolled in vary from 20 students to 100 students. Most of the assessment here is based on coursework throughout the semester and a final exam in December.

Singapore

Singapore

 Hong Kong is a very busy and bustling city, a place where you can never get bored – I doubt that I have explored a half of the city yet and I have been here over a month. In my free time I have spent my time investigating the attractions that Hong Kong has to offer, both the main tourist attractions and the more local attractions, for example hiking to the peak, going to local bars, going to the Hong Kong light show, visiting temples, haggling at the markets, camping at the beach and eating a lot of the local cuisine! On the third weekend here, I managed to fit in a trip to Singapore, arriving on the Friday and leaving on the Monday morning – I got a brief impression of Singapore. Last weekend Hong Kong prepared itself for the hit of typhoon Usagi, all the shops were packed with people stocking their cupboards up, the local students and authorities advised everyone to stay inside for the Sunday, which was the expected day for the typhoon to hit Hong Kong. Luckily for Hong Kong, the typhoons path changed meaning Hong Kong wasn’t a direct hit.

Tai Long Wan Beach

Tai Long Wan Beach

The opportunities that are available studying here are incredible. Studying abroad has definitely lived up to my expectations – it’s amazing!

Anna Durbacz (BA Geography, Year 2)