Agnese Palonara

Agnese Polonara

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

I decided to study at the ITS because of its reputation. It is the best centre for transport research in Europe and possibly one of the best in the world. In addition, ITS was the only university offering a course in Sustainability in Transport, an area I am really interested in because it involves the social implications of transport, that may sometimes be underestimated. 


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

So far the best aspect of the course was the mix of cultures you get the opportunity to experience. Masters students in ITS come from literally all over the world, and this aspect is taken into account. None of the modules of the masters are solely UK or European based. Case studies from different countries are illustrated and students are encouraged to share their thoughts and their personal experience. This aspects make you realise how the transport sector can be diversified and challenging. Before studying in ITS I could not imagine that rickshaws could represent a problem for urban mobility!

How have the Institute’s links with industry made a difference to your studies?

The Institute’s links with industry feeds directly into the masters’ modules. The lecturers know which skills the industry is looking for in students so the contents of the modules are tailored accordingly. Coursework is often based on real case studies or on projects undertaken by a real consultancy firm.

The links with industry means that the Institute is always up to date with what is happening outside academia, giving students an idea of what they can face in the future as workers in the transport sector. In addition, external speakers working in the transport sector are invited for seminars almost every week and they are sometimes involved in the teaching. This was the case for my TIP group project, where our group leader was a consultant in a company, which supervised the group as a real working team.

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

I think that what will help me the most in my future career is the experience I have got from working in groups of people from different cultural and working backgrounds. Teamwork is challenging, but at the same time it is a skill that is really needed in the working environment. Thanks to this MSc I am ready to contribute to the successful outcome of any group project.

How has the Institute’s link with industry improved your future job prospects?

Every year in ITS an employer’s visit is organised. During this event, students have the chance to get to know how different consultancies and companies work and start to understand which type of job they may like to do in the future.

I found the employer visit days absolutely beneficial because they made me realise my future career aspiration. They helped me to discover various different companies and job roles, and they gave me practice for future interviews.

What’s more, we can send our CVs and covering letters to some of the companies attending the event in order to be shortlisted for pre-interview, which may result in an invitation to an assessment centre for a graduate position. This is really important especially for international students looking to relocate in the United Kingdom, since here the application process for jobs is completely different from everywhere else. In my case, I was shortlisted for interviews with three companies, which were followed by two invitations to assessment centres. The experience I got during this event enabled me to perform well in interviews with other companies, and I manage to get a job sooner than I could ever imagine.

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

This semester we had a Transport Integrated Project as one of our compulsory modules. We were divided into groups of people from different disciplines in ITS and our task was to develop a vision for Leeds City Square, an important square in the city centre of Leeds. The square currently presents different issues related to transport that we were asked to solve. In addition, we had to work like a real consultancy for a real client, Leeds City Council. Leeds City Council representatives came to see our visions presentation in ITS and expressed their interest in our ideas.


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

As a Sustainability student I had the chance to participate in a fieldtrip with the students of the School of Health and Environment. We visited Threshfield Quarry, a disused limestone quarry in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The quarry site is the largest area within the Park that is designated for development. We then took part to a workshop where we had to think about the most sustainable solution for the area, which involved transport issues too. It was a really useful workshop that gave us an idea of how people from different backgrounds can work in synergy to reach a common solution.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My ambition for the future is to start a career in transport. I got a position as a Graduate Consultant in an important transport consultancy in London, and I am looking forward to starting my new job and to putting into practice what I have learnt thanks to ITS. In the future, I would like to see one of the project I worked on realised, and see its positive impact to society. 


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

I would say to future students that first of all they have to feel confident of their capacities. Even if you do not have any previous experience in the transport sector (as I did), the course is tailored in a way that everyone can reach their potential. The transport sector is a broad and heterogeneous field, where there is space for every kind of expertise. Secondly, you need to know that in ITS there is always someone ready to help you and answer your question and to make you have the best out of your time in Leeds.