My Leeds story - Maria Marqués (Sociology)

We are extremely proud of the achievements of all our graduating students at Leeds, but especially our Class of 2020, who have completed their studies in such challenging circumstances.

We know that our graduates are keen to make a difference in the world, and each month we are shining a spotlight on a Leeds alum who graduated in 2020.

In October, we spoke to Maria Marqués, a Sociology graduate from Spain who swapped the sunny streets of Barcelona for the buzz of Leeds, and has no plans to go back anytime soon. Catch our conversation below.

You can read the stories of more inspiring graduates featured in our My Leeds Story Class of 2020 series, or alternatively, listen to the My Leeds Story podcast series here.

My Leeds story
Maria Marqués

Start by telling us about your journey to choosing to study Sociology at the University of Leeds?

Surprisingly, Leeds wasn’t actually my first choice for studying in the UK - I’d intended to go to Edinburgh, but I didn’t get a place. Leeds had been my second choice but weirdly, when it came down to it, it felt like it had been meant to be. I got offered a place to study Sociology, and I didn’t hesitate to accept.

I wanted to study in the UK because there’s a lot more choice in terms of what you can study, and the breadth of modules available. Coming to Leeds at 17 felt pretty wild, but I couldn't have asked for a better spot to have landed in. My experience there changed my life drastically, and certainly shaped me into the person I am now.

What was your experience of living and studying in Leeds like? Tell us about what clubs and societies you were involved in during your time at the University.

When I first arrived in Leeds, it was a bit of a culture shock. It took some adapting and certainly much effort to comprehend Yorkshire accents, but I built some really strong friendships in my first year. Over the years, and with Leeds being the sociable place that it is, a few friendships snowballed into a much wider network of incredible people, who I feel very lucky to know.

The most influential part of my time at Leeds has to be my time with Lippy Magazine. I love writing, so I became involved in the society as soon as I got to Leeds. I became Lifestyle editor in my first year, before becoming a member of the committee in my second. Lippy was a place where I was able to meet people with the same mindset as myself, and develop my creative writing skills. It’s the society that helped to make me, ‘me’, and it also opened a lot of doors, giving me experiences and opportunities that I wouldn’t have found elsewhere. Aside from that, working within such a diverse and committed team infused the experience with a sense of empowerment and magic, making it a time in my life that I know I will never forget.

"My experience at Leeds transformed my life completely, and made me the person I am today."

Maria Marqués (Sociology 2020)

Your final year at Leeds wasn’t quite as you would have imagined it, not being on campus for the last term and being unable to return to campus for your graduation. How was the experience of studying virtually?

Surprisingly, my final term actually went a lot better than I imagined it would. I tried to approach the whole situation with a clear head, focusing on the positive things I could take from the situation instead of the negative ones. It was strange to think that we were all missing out on one of the most crucial parts of our time in Leeds, but the quiet gave me some time to reflect upon my time at university and all of the amazing memories I have been lucky enough to make.

During lockdown, I learnt a lot about myself. I realised that I’m someone who needs a stable environment to focus, and that taking some time for myself to unwind makes a huge difference to my outlook!

Although we weren’t able to welcome you to campus for a graduation ceremony – did you do anything with friends or family to celebrate your achievements?

We popped a bottle of Cava at home, and another one at the beach once we were allowed!

You’ve recently started a Masters at King’s College London, how are you settling in?

I’ve absolutely loved studying in the UK, so when I finished at Leeds I knew I wasn’t ready to stop yet. I applied to do a Masters in Religion at King’s College London – I'd been especially interested throughout my course in the role that religion plays in society, and my Masters is going to help me explore this interest further. So far, I’m absolutely loving it! London is of course completely different to living in Leeds, but I’m really enjoying exploring and getting to know the University and the city.

Long-term, I want to write! I’m looking into some part-time work at the moment to help support me throughout my studies, so hopefully I’ll be able to find a role in PR, journalism, or something along those lines. My humble ambition is to be a force of change in the world, and I aim to make my contributions make this a better place for all.

What advice would you give to other members of the Class of 2020 who haven’t yet found employment?

Right now, the most important thing is to follow your intuition. Focus on what makes you excited, and see where it leads you. The world is full of uncertainty right now. There’s a lot of pressure for myself and my fellow members of the Class of 2020 to find a job, and succeed on the first try. I don't get caught up in outside pressures and instead focus on myself, reflecting on what I truly want to do. Most importantly though, I am taking things one step at a time.

Maria's Best of Leeds

Favourite place to eat in Leeds:

There are so many great places to choose from. I love Belgrave pizzas and burgers, Falafel Guys stand (usually on Briggate, but you can also find them in Assembly Underground) and Kirkgate Market food stands.

Best lunch spot on/near campus:

Bakery 164 and Cafe Miro

Best place to study on campus:

Laidlaw Floor 3 Silent Study Area

Favourite lecture theatre:

Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre

Favourite building on campus:

School of Sociology and Social Policy

Favourite Yorkshire / Leeds phrase:

"Ey Babi"

Best music venue / bar / club / night in Leeds:

The Fenton, Old Bar, East Village and Hifi

Favourite place to visit in Yorkshire: