My Leeds story - Jonas Kitadi, 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 shine a spotlight on a Leeds alum who graduated in 2020.

In February, we spoke to Jonas Kitadi, a sociology graduate who recently started working for Frontline. Catch to 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
Jonas Kitadi

Start by telling us how you came to choose to study at the University of Leeds?

Leeds has always stood out to me as a great place not only to study, but also live. When I first visited the city, I instantly felt at home. I looked around the campus and spoke to some student ambassadors who provided me with real insight into studying sociology at Leeds. Something just felt right, and I was sold!

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 university?

Whenever people ask me what Leeds is like, I have to tell them – it's mad! There’s always so much going on and to get involved with, not just at the University itself, but in the surrounding area too. There's lots of cool independent shops to explore in the Corn Exchange, then places like Kirkstall Abbey and Ilkley are great for a day out. I always enjoyed heading over to Roundhay park on a summers day for some drinks.

Tell us about your course and your experiences from your year in industry, where you worked with the FDM Group as a Diversity and Inclusion Project Coordinator. What were your highlights?

Sociology was all new to me – I'd never studied it before I came to University! What attracted me to studying it for my undergrad though, was that it offered the opportunity to study social issues, and I knew this was an area which I wanted to get a critical understanding of. It was the cherry on top of the cake that I had the chance to spend a year in industry, working in a professional setting in a department with missions closely aligned to some of the key topics I had studied, including social mobility and gender inequality in the workplace. A highlight from that year was having a discussion with the Director of Technology platform at the BBC. We spoke about the challenges the broadcaster was facing to meet the needs of the newest generation of viewers, and how the different ways this generation consumes media poses a threat to existing practice.

Your dissertation title was highly relevant for 2020, coinciding with Black Lives Matter protests during the summer. Can you tell us more about it?

I wrote my dissertation on ‘The experiences of young black men in 21st century Britain – navigating: Masculinity, Mental Health and Racial Stereotypes’. As a young black man myself, identity has been an issue I have grappled with for as long as I can remember. Studying sociology at university helped me to understand the challenges I have faced around identity, and has provided a platform for self-exploration. Then, after working in Diversity and Inclusion during my year in industry, I came back to Leeds for my final year with many questions I wanted to find the answers to, such as: why are black male pupils the most likely to be expelled and excluded from secondary school? Or, why are young black men repeatedly portrayed as criminal in the media? And, why is it that black men are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder?

I found that more often than not, the common denominator in answer to these questions is that racism is still rife in Britain today, and black men, especially young black men, are oppressed by its presence.

My dissertation offered only a snapshot into the struggles of black men in this country, and unfortunately it doesn’t come close to highlighting the injustice and challenges facing black men in far less diverse societies, let alone the pain suffered by black women across the world. I believe the events of last summer have only ignited an overdue conversation in some quarters of the Western world about the endemic problem of racism - there is still a long way to go!

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?

As someone who is always on the move, not being able to get away from the desk in my room on a regular basis was hard. Put it this way - four walls have never felt so close!

However, it did offer me the chance to really focus on my work, and probably gave me the time to apply myself in a way I probably couldn’t have done if everything was normal, especially considering all the usual distractions that life likes to throw at you during exam season!

What have you learnt about yourself in lockdown?

I’ve learnt that I really struggle with not having face-to-face interactions with my friends. I think without the opportunity to meet up with others, I found lockdown quite isolating at points, especially as I have never been big on social media and never got on the Zoom quiz hype!

On a positive note, I realised that baking is not as hard as I thought it would be, and after several attempts, I can make a really mean lemon drizzle.

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?

The day after finding out my results, my home friends and I managed to organise a pub session (socially distanced of course) – which was a nice way to celebrate getting through university together.

" Think to yourself - what is it that I am most curious and interested about in life? Then find a way to explore this passion. "

Jonas Kitadi (Sociology 2020)

You’ve recently started working in a graduate role with Frontline. Tell us about the application process, the role itself, and why your chose to apply?

During my final year at Leeds, I had done some temporary work with Frontline, both as a Care Experienced Assessor and also by getting involved with their campaign for International Men’s day, which I loved. Frontline is a social work charity with a mission to transform the lives of children and families by developing the next generation of social workers via excellent training and leadership. Frontline are committed to a culture of freedom and responsibility, which places great emphasis on you as an individual to maximise your potential through hard work and by collaborating with your peers, which is something I found really attractive. So, when I became aware of their graduate internship, I applied without a second thought.

Despite my prior experience with them, I applied for the role through the mainstream route which involved an online application, online tests, a panel video interview and then a face-to-face interview. Having applied for year in industry roles before, this sort of application process wasn’t too new to me, so I felt quite relaxed at each stage. Naturally, as I was keen to land the role, nerves crept in when the interviews came around, but thankfully I did enough to impress. I think the key with any application is to demonstrate how you can be an asset to the organisation, and showcase the skills and expertise you can bring to the role. Ultimately, the assessment process is there for the organisation to see why they should invest in you.

I now work as a selection coordinator, which means I sit within the team who are responsible for coordinating assessment centres and delivering them, along with overseeing the selections process from start to finish for our two-year graduate training programme. As a selection coordinator, I work within the Selection team which is one of three sub-teams that come together to form the Recruitment team at Frontline. The Recruitment team is responsible for attracting graduates, selecting graduates and then administrating graduates on to the Frontline graduate programme.

How is the new job going? Tell us about your first few months.

I’m several months in now, and it has been a joy since day one. It’s been quite strange not meeting any of my colleagues in person, especially the other interns who I work closely with on joint projects, however, the entire team at Frontline have been really welcoming from the start.

What has been nice was that I was eased into the role and my responsibilities - I spent the first couple of weeks getting to understand the structure of the organisation, meeting with colleagues in different departments, and having the opportunity to ask as many questions as possible.

Since then, I have been able to work on and complete projects on reasonable adjustments and assessment centre observers. Our assessment centres have already begun for this current recruitment season, so as a main responsibility in my role I have been coordinating these centres virtually through a digital platform. In addition, I have had the chance to join the Black Affinity Working Group, where I collaborate with colleagues on issues to do with race and ethnicity, both within Frontline but also the wider social work sector, which due to the nature of my degree has been really interesting.

What advice would you give to other members of the class of 2020 who haven’t yet found employment or made plans for further study?

I am not saying this is easy but sit down and think to yourself - What is it that I am most curious and interested about in life? Then find a way to explore this passion, whether that be through work, volunteering or travelling.

Jonas' best of Leeds

Favourite place to eat in Leeds:

Fazendas if my student loan has just dropped, but if I am halfway through term Mans Market is a good shout for an affordable Chinese that takes you out of LS6 and into the city centre.

Best lunch spot on/near campus:

Bakery 164 opposite the Parkinson’s building - not even up for debate!

Best place to study on campus:

Laidlaw level 3 silent study if you’re one of the lucky ones to secure a seat.

Favourite lecture theatre:

Business School Western Lecture theatre, shortest walk across Hyde Park and best view of the board regardless of seat.

Your favourite building on campus:

Revamped LUU just because I am partial to the 3 for £1 deal on gummy sweets in the CO-OP if I am having a slow afternoon in Laidlaw!

Favourite Yorkshire / Leeds phrase:

SCRAN! – Somehow means food…

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

Distrikt bar

Favourite place you visited in Yorkshire:

Ilkley, great place for a stroll and fresh air to take your mind off of the chaos which is being a student.