Olivia Carr loved studying Geography at GCSE and A level. The wide range of issues that geography is central to – such as climate science, sustainability and global societies – and its relevance in today's world were key in her decision to pursue the subject at university level.
After visiting the University of Reading, both the course and location in which Olivia wanted to study became clear.
“I loved the campus and feel at the University of Reading. In my opinion it has the best geography course as I did not have to narrow it down to human or physical geography. It was clear to me that the research undertaken at Reading was some of the best and that the lecturers would be excellent.”
For Olivia, the potential to make a difference in a range of issues facing society – environmental, economic, social, or political – were motivating factors for choosing the BSc Geography (Human and Physical).
“The course gave the best balance of human and physical geography that I had seen. This included a range of available topics, from natural hazards to corporate social responsibility to environmental governance.
"A key element that interests me is the interconnectedness of the discipline to other subjects – whether this is the sciences or more humanities-based subjects – as well as real life applications which are clear to see.”
Tailored learning experience
Olivia enjoyed a varied approach to learning during her time at Reading, which helped her develop a well-rounded set of key skills while pursuing her areas of interest.
“My learning included lectures, seminars, fieldwork (local, residential and international), as well as using specialist equipment such as the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope and Geographic Information System mapping software.
"The variety in content and learning methods – as well as the opportunity to be taught by the best in their field who were undertaking research in what they were teaching – made it more engaging.
"Final-year teaching was much more open, including one module having the scope to write an essay on whatever we wanted! I did an analysis of youth activism movements using case studies of Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, and the Parkland shooting survivors.”
Olivia sees these as some of the "most challenging, but ultimately the most rewarding" assignments.
The global thematic issues explored in the Department help to equip students with a global perspective and the solution-orientated mind-set valued by employers.
“The skills I gained studying geography at Reading have been invaluable in securing my job and working within community development. A geography degree not only gave me a firm grasp of geographical processes and theories, but also helped develop my synoptic thinking and problem-solving skills.
"Assessment at Reading was not limited to essays and scientific reports, but involved data analysis, the writing of corporate-style reports, and presentations to various audiences, all of which were invaluable practice to take forward into the workplace.
"Reading also has a dedicated careers advisor. They are available not only to give general careers advice and guidance, but specialist support for geographical based jobs."
Rural community council role
After finishing her degree, Olivia started a role at a Rural Community Council (RCC), part of the ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) network.
“ACRE aims to be the voice of rural communities, working in areas including the environment, housing, village halls, community planning, energy, and much more.
"I work across four main projects: a community-led local development project; a capital grants project; the community-led housing hub for the East of England (Eastern Community Homes); and the rural affordable housing partnership.
"Some of my responsibilities include supporting community-led housing groups, writing reports to funders such as the Department of Work and Pensions, administrating housing needs surveys, planning and running online events, and monitoring the progress of community-led local development projects.”
Looking ahead, Olivia wants to continue supporting rural communities, and gain more experience in economic development and supporting community-led housing groups.
Now progressing in her career, Olivia's enjoyment and passion for geography remains just as strong as when she studied it at secondary school.