Abi thornley

Abi Thornley

Abi Thornley studies Geography BA, focusing on human geography. During her studies she has gained a broad expertise, learning how to tackle important real-world problems. Abi is currently on a 12-month placement with RSK Group, within their transport planning team based in Manchester.

Choosing Leeds

Abi Thornley applied to study Geography at Leeds saying it is “one of the top universities in the UK for geography and has a wide range of interesting modules”. When visiting she found everyone to be really welcoming and liked that the campus was so close to the city centre adding “Leeds has the feel of a small city where you can find your way around easily, but there’s always something to do, as in a big city.”

“When I was choosing a course I knew that I wanted to study specifically human geography as I had little interest in physical geography. Most universities offered courses that were a mix of both, whereas Leeds allowed you to choose just one with the opportunity of mixing the two with optional modules. Therefore, I could study human geography with the knowledge that I could always choose physical geography modules if I changed my mind later.”

Studying Geography

During her degree Abi felt that - “One of the best aspects of geography at Leeds was the careers module which are taught in semester one of second year. As part of this module, there are talks every week from a huge variety of Leeds geography alumni to help students get a taste of what careers they can choose. This was incredibly useful and helped me with my application for a year in industry.”

Year in industry

After choosing a couple of transport modules Abi applied for the placement at RSK Group. She said “I was uncertain about my career choices whilst studying, so that's why I decided to take a year in industry to try something out, like transport to see if it would be something I'd be interested in post-graduation.”

“Whilst on placement I've managed to get involved in a wide range of transport projects with the team including large scale residential developments, Scottish wind farms and even an international project in Iraq. I’ve really improved my research, report writing and excel skills alongside developing my soft skills such as my confidence by working with a range of people. I have really enjoyed the role so far and I'm hoping that I might get the opportunity to re-join the team after I complete my final year.”

Field trips with Geography

Whilst at Leeds Abi has had the chance to take part in several trips, she said “One of the best aspects of geography at Leeds is the wide range of field trips as part of the degree.”

Due to COVID-19, travel opportunities were limited but still played a part in studying the course. Despite the pandemic, Abi explained: “It was great to be able to take the theoretical knowledge from the module and apply it to a case study, even if we weren’t able to actually travel and undertake our research there ourselves.”

Abi hopes to be able to take part in the Buenos Aires field trip module following her return from her year in industry.

Future students

When asked what she would say to students thinking about studying geography at Leeds Abi added “Make the most of the opportunities available as part of the course. Whether it’s joining geography society, attending extra-curricular geography events or going on the field trips.

I would especially recommend doing a year in industry and getting some real experience in the field, which will help you in job applications after you leave.

Abi Thornley, School of Geography

The careers centre at the university offer help at every stage of applications, whether it’s help writing your CV, interview preparation or help with assessment centres.”