One of the most useful things about studying for a degree is the opportunity for work experience and the extra-curricular activities it brings. These endeavours can not only enhance your CV, but also broaden your understanding of the subject and how it relates to the wider world.
I was lucky enough to be accepted to intern at the local office of Ben Bradshaw MP, and I can honestly say that as well as demonstrating the practical applications of sociology the experience was a rewarding one, helping me judge in which direction I wish to take my life.
As Exeter is holding elections for its City Council next month, most of my week was taken up by canvassing. We spent the week traversing the length of Exeter, often accompanied by Ben Bradshaw, which though physically tiring gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the city and its residents. Indeed, any kind of volunteer work within a city broadens your knowledge of the area and makes you feel more a part of it. This was furthered by the fact I was able to meet not only the local MP, but also the council leader and various councillors who were able to share their experiences of working in local government and information about Exeter’s communities and the problems they face. Meeting residents was also very informative; issues raised ranged from housing and schooling to their dislike of Labour’s new direction.
From a sociological point of view, what was most interesting was how demographics offer a key indicator of voting behaviour. While working-class areas and council estates proved more likely to support Labour, they were also far more likely to want to vote to leave the European Union. This ties in with findings that show that people in areas that generally possess a lower level of education and are more directly affected by immigration are more likely to wish to leave the EU. Similarly, while middle-class areas were more likely to vote for the Conservatives, they were also more likely to vote Green, which corresponds to the idea that people who have less to lose are more likely to risk voting for principles rather than out of pragmatism.
Anyone studying for a Social Science degree should make sure they learn something of the society and people about which they are theorising and back up their ideas with hard evidence. An ideal way to do this is through work experience in the political, journalistic or charity fields. University is about more than just studying for a degree, and the excellent connections and services of Exeter University and its SPA department provide students with perfect opportunities to pursue the fields in which they are interested.