So, I decided to apply for a masters, specifically the MRes Sustainable Futures at the University of Bristol (UoB). While that’s the host university, one of the exciting things about the programme is that it’s one of the South West Doctoral Training Partnership interdisciplinary pathways that are delivered in partnership with the University of Bath, University of the West of England and University of Exeter. As for mandatory units, they will be taught by my ‘home’ School for Policy Studies at UoB (which makes me feel quite safe and warm!) as well as the Geography department and the Law department. Optional units then include some Politics units, as well as units from the other universities. So, interdisciplinary indeed!
That’s not necessarily an academic career bonus as I’ve heard that not focusing on a specific discipline can be troublesome when wanting to delve into the world of publications for example. But hey, I’ve never studied for career purposes have I? I’ve studied because I want to understand more about this world we inhabit and because I hope I can apply that understanding to improve life for others. It’s constructive guilt really. I’m so fucking privileged compared to many people I know, let alone billions of other humans I share this planet with; if I don’t do something worthwhile with that privilege, well, that would just be selfish. In fact in might be deeper than that. It would suggest life really is just meaningless, and something this beautiful can’t be for nothing.
Anyway, I WAS OFFERED A PLACE ON THE COURSE!
Exciting hey?! Very!
Here’s the personal statement I submitted which makes me cringe! There are a fair few grammatical and structural errors I can now see glaring at me. But it’s honest, and it did the trick!
There are three reasons for my choice to study MRes Sustainable Futures. Firstly, I am driven by the need to understand the complex interactions of society, economics, environment and the governance of all three. Secondly, I am consumed by the desire to apply this understanding by taking practical action. Thirdly, I thoroughly enjoy the research process. Therefore, the MRes provides a platform to develop my research skills while combining my analytical and normative interests.
My undergraduate Social Policy BSc was completed at the University of Bristol in 2016. The MRes at Bristol is appealing because it combines the familiarity of a supportive environment via the qualitative and quantitative research skills modules in the School for Policy Studies, with the exposure to the Law, Geography and Politics schools. I am also attracted by the opportunity for collaborative teaching at Bath and Exeter Universities. Understanding and improving sustainable development can only be achieved by embracing the complexity of multiple interdependent systems, and hence my personal growth in this subject can only be strengthened by the complementary interdisciplinary approach offered by this programme.
Before, throughout and since graduating I have been searching for a way to make sense of the world we live in. I am appalled by the unequal distribution of wealth within and between countries, the prevalence of extreme poverty and the environmental destruction humans wreak on the planet. This desire to understand is not purely analytical. For example, in an attempt to do something practical with my environmental concerns in particular in 2017 I opened a small whole food shop called Replenish Weston. The aim of the shop (which offers many loose ‘scoops and weigh’ food and cleaning goods) is to reduce unnecessary packaging while increasing access to affordable, ethically produced food. Opening this shop has taught me that I can successfully turn an idea into action, that I enjoy facilitating the positive actions of others and that running a shop is not enough to satisfy my enquiring mind.
I am applying for this programme not only to increase my understanding and ability to take action in the short-term but because I am interested in future PhD study. Beyond developing my own understanding, I want to help others make the necessary connections between their actions and the effects of those actions, particularly on the most vulnerable people with whom we share this planet. I want to focus my time on learning how to conceptualise, measure and communicate an understanding of our complex interactions. I see this as the first step towards becoming a facilitator in helping others, whether individuals or organisations, to work towards reducing the harm prevalent across our interdependent world.
I apply to the programme with strong academic and research skills evidenced by my First Class Honours and awards given during my undergraduate degree. In 2013/14 I was awarded a Dean’s Prize for Outstanding performance in first year study, and later the Social Policy BSc Third Year prize 2016 for the best dissertation of the year. My research skills were further developed through employment alongside studying in my position as Research & Campaigns Officer at Citizens Advice North Somerset. This role allowed me to understand the meaning and importance of praxis as I combined my theoretical understanding of policy with the direct experience of working with those impacted. A further example of my commitment to praxis is the voluntary work of ‘Refugees Welcome North Somerset’ which I started through the simplicity of a Facebook group in late 2016 after reading about the ‘refugee crisis’ and the (inadequate) response of the EU and UK government. The group was set up in response to the inaction of our local authority to find homes for three families under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and a desire to find other local people who shared my interest in ensuring the decision to help was fulfilled. We influenced the local authority through meetings with the relevant officers and community events, and later facilitated pre- and post- arrival support for the families.
I am a hard-working, entrepreneurial and compassionate person who is trying to understand the complex world we live in, and how I can play a role in working towards a sustainable future. Currently, I am absorbing information through reading alone and attempting to act when I see an opportunity to do so. I hope to be accepted onto this programme so that I can work with scholars to direct and expand my reading, so that I can discuss and debate ideas to extend my understanding, and so that I can develop my research skills so that I can increase the efficacy of my actions.