Charline Diele, MSc Sustainability in Transport student at the University of Leeds.

Charline Dielen

Why did you choose to study this course at the Institute for Transport Studies?

After graduating I decided to do a Masters, the only question was where? Application deadlines in my home country and most Northern-European countries are in March and April, but the UK has different deadlines. When the UK seemed to be my only option at that point, it was an easy choice to come to Leeds. Not only because of ITS’ world-leading expertise in transport and wide variety of transport masters, but also because I lived for a short period in Manchester 2 years prior so I was familiar with the area.

What has been the best aspect of studying your course so far and why?

It is hard to mention one aspect. When I arrived, I really enjoyed the introduction weeks. I was amazed by the help and support offered to students. If you have any problem, there is always a person on campus who can help you. Even for things like culture shock, support is offered. Regarding the course, I would definitely call the variety of ways to learn the best aspect. There are not just lectures being given, but also site visits, external seminars, job fairs, trips and things like the Metropoly game and the bumper cars challenge that are organised. 

To clarify, the Metropoly game aims to collect as many points as possible that can be collected by visiting West Yorkshire’s train stations and other points of interest over the period of a day. As a fanatic team player, I was super excited to take up this challenge. In the end, it was all about having fun and exploring rail and bus travel and the beauty of West Yorkshire’s scenery. 

Can you tell us a little about the bumper cars challenge? What does it entail and what is it used to teach?

The aim of the challenge is to simulate real-world traffic situations with bumper cars. We walked to Millennium Square after a short briefing where the bumper cars were reserved just for us. The first round was a normal round of bumping into each other, so the lecturer could pick out a bumper car with an average speed profile. This one was the lead vehicle, which was considered to have a representative speed. All bumper cars were moved to the centre of the arena and the lead vehicle started driving circles close to the edges of the arena. Each round, a random vehicle was added to the traffic flow and the lecturer timed the seconds passed for the lead vehicle to drive each round. As expected, the intensity/capacity ratio increased as well as time passed per round. At the end of the session, it looked like real congestion forming. In the IT cluster, a speed-flow and time-intensity diagram was made from the collected data, which was compared to real congestion flow diagrams.

This experience offered a unique insight into micro-scale traffic flows, and its degree of transferability to daily traffic. What is a better way to learn things through a bit of fun on the winter fair with your course mates? It is a voluntary activity, but it provides an opportunity to take part in something that is a bit different than your weekly routine of lectures. 

How have experiences such as the bumper cars challenge made an impact on your studies?

It really resembles the learning strategy of ITS. Combining practice with theory is the way to make studying more effective and creative. When you get too caught up in theory, you forget about how it is in reality. With site visits, excursions and external seminars, you are getting familiar with projects and practice. 

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

The Career Centre provides effective support in finding a job from application process to interviews. Since I never applied for a graduate role, it really contributes to my current skill set. Critical thinking and essay writing are things I am also really advancing during this course. Lecturers push you towards the critical mindset, which you will require throughout your professional career. Additionally, functioning in a multicultural environment prepares you in the best way for your career, by overcoming communication and methodological issues.  

Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed.

We had one project so far, a project where we assisted in the redevelopment of Leeds City Square. This was a unique opportunity to work in a disciplinary team as a fictitious consultancy firm for a real client, Leeds City Council. You are challenged with the task to pedestrianize City Square from concept to appraisal. Conducting an appraisal was time-consuming and completely new to me. By doing site visits, case study research, and by using models, environmental, economic and social impacts can be described and in some cases quantified. 

Have you been on any fieldtrips? If so, what was your experience of these?

I have been on the Sheffield/Peak District field trip in December. It was an amazing experience. We firstly travelled to Sheffield, where you could choose from numerous transport related activities. I was lucky enough to go to the traffic control centre, it was incredible to watch their level of authority, and responsibility to save lives by providing green light to emergency vehicles. Some students went home after visiting Sheffield, and some went to the Peak District by bus. The hostel is located in a picturesque village in the heart of the Peak District. We could not resist going to the local pub in the evening and the next morning we woke up to snow. As many of our ITS master’s students have never experienced snow, and for others snowfall remains a magical event, the hike in icy conditions was wonderful.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would like to work for a consultancy firm. Where? I have no idea. It could possibly be the UK, Scandinavia or Australia. I feel like I am too young to start settling down in my home country, and I would love to continue improving my English. I want to get hands-on experience in public transport and active transport projects. Making transport a safer, cleaner and more pleasant experience is my ambition. After working in the developed world for a few years, I want to work in low-income countries. When I did an internship in Indonesia last year, I felt that I could really make a difference. The transport challenges and corresponding opportunities drive me to make the most for our generation and future generations to come. 

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

When I got to know my course mates, I found out that many have some work experience. Work experience is always useful, but as a fresh Bachelor graduate do not feel discouraged to apply for this course. Once ITS accepts your offer, they believe that you are capable to graduate within the academic term, so believe in yourself.

Secondly, don’t get too dragged into your deadlines. You still have to maintain a good study-life balance. Time to cook, exercise and do social activities are significant wellbeing factors in my point of view. Furthermore, I would highly recommend you not to hesitate to raise any question. When working in a project, it is better to explain the same idea to one person ten times, than him or her not understanding the idea. When moving onto the next project phase, you want all project members to be on the same page. At last, be willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to make the most of your personal development. I believe the key to success is eagerness to learn, enthusiasm and effective time management.