James McLennan chose to study at the University of Reading because it offered a uniquely spacious campus only a short distance from the town centre and London, because of the incredibly flexible offering, and because of the study abroad opportunities. Little did he know his time at Reading would offer him so much more.
"I studied a BA in History and Politics and then an MA in History at Reading. I chose these subjects based upon a firm conviction that if I studied something I was interested in, it would lead me to a career which I would also find interesting. I would offer this advice to anyone who is overly worried about choosing a degree that helps them get the "right" job after graduation."
"I am now in an exciting career in the Civil Service, and I credit the experiences and support I received at Reading to getting me here."
James' heart was set on studying abroad, and Reading enabled him to pursue that goal:
"I knew that I wanted to study abroad and Reading was the only University which I felt was truly interested in facilitating this, with a programme that focused on meeting student demand for places."
"I studied abroad for one term, which meant I gained all the benefits without having to extend the length of my degree, pay extra tuition fees, or end up a year behind my friends. I studied at the University of Rhode Island in the USA and was able to benefit from the unique opportunity of studying American Slavery whilst in America, gaining a perspective and understanding beyond that which was available in Reading. The whole experience was fantastic and incredibly valuable."
"In interviews employers always asked about my study abroad experience, and I found that many of my most impressive and unique competencies came from my time spent studying abroad."
"Beyond such practical benefits studying abroad was also a lot of fun - I made friends from all around the world and tried so many weird and wonderful things. The University of Reading is incredibly supportive of students and I would encourage anyone who is interested to talk to the Study Abroad team at Reading to find out more."
James is grateful for the support, encouragement and inspiration he received from his lecturers at Reading:
"The academics in both departments were always so accessible and spent more time than I deserved coaching, encouraging, and pushing me to seek new challenges."
"There are a few to whom I will remain forever grateful for encouraging me to achieve things I would never have thought I could do - my life would be very different today without those individuals."
"In my third year my dissertation supervisor suggested that I might be interested in a master's degree in History. I had just suffered a disheartening rejection from a graduate employer and this was exactly what I needed to make me pick myself up and refocus on a new challenge. Thanks to the tireless support of a handful of academics I was successful in my application for the master's course, and in securing a University of Reading scholarship. This was a pivotal moment in my academic career - without the encouragement and support I received I would have taken a very different path and probably wouldn't be where I am today."
Life in the fast lane
During his degree James became set upon joining the Civil Service Fast Stream:
"Whilst completing my MA History at Reading I gained entry onto the Fast Stream, and now - a year later - I am continually thrilled to be exposed to the inner workings of our nation's government, working on issues that are often featured in newspapers or talked about on TV."
"I'm on a four year development programme that seeks to give its trainees experience of a wide range of roles across government in order to equip them for a leadership role within the Civil Service."
Currently I am rotating through a new job every six months. My first role was working in HMRC as part of the Centre for Offshore Evasion Strategy - this is a policy unit seeking to design the tools needed to prevent, detect and prosecute offshore tax evasion. My second role was in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as part of the Better Regulation Unit, which helps DCLG to ensure that regulations which impact upon business in the UK are both proportionate and effective. In my next post I will move to Portsmouth to work for the Ministry of Defence within Royal Navy Command HQ as a Navy Effectiveness and Strategy Analyst. This just goes to show that a career in the Civil Service really can take you anywhere, to do anything!"
"All of the transferable skills I gained from my degree are now in constant daily use, and I wouldn't be here today without the incredible support and experiences I enjoyed during my time at Reading."