Image of final year undergraduate student Elinor Sullivan standing by the sea.

Elinor Sullivan

Elinor Sullivan is a final-year University of Leeds student who studies Geography BSc at the School of Geography

Ever since her GCSEs, fourth-year student Eilnor Sullivan knew that geography was the subject she was most passionate about. 

She chose to apply for BSc Geography at Leeds as she felt the course was the best fit for her.  

BSc Geography requires more of a logical brain and I'm the type of person who likes to have a right answer, whereas in BA Geography there's a lot more debate and issues up for discussion.

Elinor Sullivan  

“As much as the content covered in BA is interesting, the skills needed for BSc are more up my street. It includes mathematical and mapping skills as we use software like GIS and R for mapping and statistical tests.  

“Leeds has a very defined split between BSc and BA cohorts within the School of Geography. In many other universities geography is much more combined into one course, and you can specialise in certain topics you find more interesting in later years.  

“However, at Leeds because of the divide, it has allowed me to get to know the people in my cohort better and fully focus on the side of the subject that I'm more interested in.” 

Image of fourth-year Geography BSc student Elinor Sullivan in a forest conducting an experiment.


A welcoming city  

Choosing Leeds was an easy choice for Elinor who wanted to study in a well-connected student city which had the countryside right on her doorstep.  

She said: “Because it's a campus university which is very close to the city, you always feel like you're connected and part of the city. As Leeds is home to five universities it's also very much a student-orientated city, which makes it more fun and comfortable because there's so many young people around. 

“The city has everything you need from cafes, restaurants, independent shops, markets, museums and exhibitions, and green spaces. There is something for everyone!  

“It’s also a very diverse city; everyone and anyone is welcomed to Leeds. It feels like a home away from home after being here for three years.  

“I also wanted to be within a city with the opportunity to go to the countryside as well. Leeds is very close to the North York Moors and the Dales which are wonderful places for day trips when you need to destress, or just fancy a nice walk in some fresh air.  

“There are also many good connections from Leeds to anywhere in the country, so it's always easy to go home when I've needed, or to visit friends at other universities.” 

Fieldwork opportunities 

One of Elinor’s favourite aspects of her course has been the opportunity to take part in fieldwork which has included trips to the Cairngorms in Scotland and Malham in the Yorkshire Dales.  

She said: “These trips have been lots of fun and have allowed me to develop my field skills. It's a wonderful way to get to know your course mates, especially because the first field trip is within the first few weeks of first year. 

“The Cairngorm trip was an amazing opportunity as it gave us the opportunity to practise new field skills and to work in groups to create a project about any area of interest in Scotland. 

“At the end of the week, after we had collected and analysed all our data, we worked together to write a report and then present this to the rest of the cohort. It was a nice event to be able to find out what different projects others had been doing in the Cairngorms.  

“The trip was also an amazing way to bond with fellow course mates and tutors because on the last evening we all did karaoke and went to the only club in Aviemore! 

“Another good aspect of the course at Leeds is the big variation in the specialities of the professors teaching the content. There’s a professor for every aspect of physical geography which is really helpful when it comes round to dissertation season because there's always someone who will be interested in the project you're doing and will be able to provide their expert advice.” 

Image of three Geography students at the University of Leeds out on a fieldwork trip. One of the students is hugging a tree in the forest.


Inspirational academics 

Elinor says she has been inspired by the professors on her course. 

She said: “I spoke to one of my professors (Dr Alan Grainger) recently and he was explaining to myself and a friend how he has ended up as a lecturer at Leeds.  

“He has been involved in so many amazing research projects throughout his time and also worked for the UN at one point. It’s very inspiring for students to know that people with similar passions to them have achieved amazing things.  

“The fact that during our degree we reference and read published journal articles from academics that we know is inspiring and makes us feel like anyone of us is capable of achieving the same goals in the future.” 

Learning new skills 

Other exciting projects Elinor has worked on during her course has included writing reports for the Water Science and Management module.  

“The report we had to write is very similar to something that we may be asked to do in the future if we went into this field of work with the Water Framework Directive for example,” she said.  

“It makes all the hard work that you’re doing at university feel worthwhile as all the skills can be taken forward into our futures. 

“In my second year, I also took part in a module called Sustainability: Living within Limits which incorporated both BA and BSc Geography. It was a nice way to understand how humans and the environment work together, and how we as humans need to manage and understand the natural environment.” 

Creating an impact 

Elinor feels her course is extremely important when it comes to our daily lives. 

"Climate change is already a massive issue globally and this will only increase into the future as greenhouse gas emissions increase and the population increases,” she said. 

“Therefore, in the future there are going to be many people who are educated and interested in solving or mitigating these issues. This could be in a number of ways, including environmental law, flood defences, energy consultants all of which can be achieved through a geography degree. 

"Companies are looking for people in sustainability to help them improve their environmental impact, and by studying geography you'll have a foot in the door at understanding these concepts, the causes of climate change and how to mitigate any of the detrimental impacts.” 

Image of fourth-year Geography BSc student Elinor Sullivan at the University of Leeds using the equipment.

Support for your future  

Following her graduation Elinor wants to pursue her ambition of becoming a secondary school geography teacher 

She said: "This is always a career path that I have been interested in and after my placement year it confirmed to me that I didn’t want an office job and would prefer something more dynamic.  

“My favourite subject in school was geography and this was definitely due to my teacher. He was very enthusiastic about the subject and loved teaching as well as learning with us.  

“I would love to be able to pass on my passion for geography to young people in the future.” 

In her final year, Elinor had the opportunity to enrol onto the School and Education Placements module which she believes has supported her teaching ambitions.  

Elinor said: “The module provided a great introduction to teaching as you're able to take part in a placement at a local school, which I think is really beneficial to better understand how schools work behind the scenes. 

The module has been super helpful in making me feel more confident in the classroom as it teaches you to learn crucial skills, including how to make and develop lesson plans and deliver lessons to students in different ways.

Elinor Sullivan

“The Career Skills in Geography module in my second year also allowed me to develop my professional working skills and practise my public speaking, which will be extremely important if I go into teaching in the future. We also had the opportunity to write a CV and get it looked at which means I now have a more professional and eye-catching CV.” 

Industrial placement 

Elinor’s advice for students embarking on the same course is simple – to take a year out to complete an industrial placement. 

During her placement, she worked within the Sustainability Team of a Construction company who are refurbishing Citi Tower in Canary Wharf, London.  

She said: “I was able to learn lots about embodied carbon wrapped up in the built world and worked with other companies to look for material alternatives that could be used which would have a lesser impact on the environment. However, I have friends who did placements with the Environment Agency in flood management, the Met Office, and Sainsbury’s in agricultural crops.  

“It’s a great way to gain some professional experience in geography and many people say that by taking a year out, you come back to Leeds in your final year and improve much more from your second year.  

“I would really recommend BSc Geography at the University of Leeds because it is such an important and dynamic degree.  

“In your first and second year you learn a plethora of skills and topics which you can really narrow down in your final year to tailor your degree and make it your own.“ 

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