Why did you choose Cardiff University as a place to study?
I’m from and was living in Swansea at the time, so location primarily. The good reputation of the school was also an important factor as was the fact that the full time lectures were squeezed into two days a week meaning that I could work part-time – without the extra income I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to do the course.
What was the best thing about your time as a student at Cardiff?
I really liked the atmosphere in lectures and tutorials where you felt free to ask questions or give an opinion and sometimes disagree with the tutor. At the university where I studied for my undergraduate degree there was a general consensus that you didn’t open your mouth unless you had something intellectually astounding to say. At CPLAN it was a lot more relaxed and that gave me more confidence to express my thoughts and ideas.
What thing or person inspired you most whilst you were a Cardiff University student?
Reading ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ by Jane Jacobs was very inspiring. It was recommended by Alison Brown and a visiting speaker and it really made me realise the importance of some of the concepts that were often discussed in class. It was also a great read and its made me desperate to visit New York!
I also found Alison Brown’s lectures in the Emerging Cities module really engaging. Her slides and stories from developing countries were really interesting and it definitely made me think that once I have more practical experience I’d like to work on projects in developing countries.
Craig Gurney’s ability to make the 9am Research Methods lectures interesting and unmissable was truly admirable. He’s one of the best lecturers I’ve ever had.
What one thing would you tell someone else about the School of Planning and Geography at Cardiff?
Make an effort to get to know your tutor early on – I was lucky enough to have a great tutor (Martyn Senior) who was really supportive of some of the difficulties I experienced on the Live Project. Some other students never saw their tutors and definitely missed out on the pastoral support they offer.
Secondly, just grin and bear the Live Project – it feels like it drags on forever but it will come to an end! Personally it was great to have the opportunity to go overseas and participate in one of the international projects but the stress and sleepless nights caused by the module in general were probably the low point of the degree.
Finally, unless you’re already coming from a planning background don’t expect to come off the MSc course knowing what a planning application form looks like or how to assess one!
How did your degree most help you in the career or job you have now chosen?
Coming from a social science background the MSc provided me with the qualification I needed to apply for the graduate position with SPA. They were impressed with the fact that I had completed an extensive dissertation and had received a distinction for the MSc and had clearly learned how to carry out complex policy analysis and research.
Tell us a bit about your current job, how you got into what you are doing and what you enjoy about it most.
My current role involves different placements across the property groups at SPA. I spent my first 5 months working for the Commercial Transactions team buying and selling properties for Government. This often involved preparing Development Applications, reports to assess environmental and heritage impacts and rezoning land under specific policies. My second placement was with the Planning and Analysis team and my main project was writing a strategic planning report on government office accommodation in a regional centre and how future demand for services may impact on the type of space Government owns and leases in the area. I also worked on economic appraisals of potential commercial property acquisitions for the NSW Treasury. I’ve just commenced my final placement with the Portfolio Management team and this will involve learning how to manage and administer property contracts and carry out commercial lease negotiations.
I’m still undecided if I want to stay in Government or make a move to a planning consultancy. Ideally I’d like to be involved in some of the major urban regeneration strategies that are planned for Sydney over the next five years, either in a planning or property capacity – then I’d like to come home to Swansea and get to work on fixing their city centre!
What opportunities do you feel have opened up to you as a result of being a student at the Cardiff School of Planning and Geography?
That’s a tough question because after graduating I moved to Australia and so any benefits that I might have received from being a CPLAN alumna are quite lost over here and are still overshadowed by me also being an LSE alumna as it has a more global reputation. There are clearly opportunities that I’ve experienced as being a MSc graduate and I have met some private sector planners here who do know that Cardiff has a good reputation – which is not bad considering it’s the other side of the world!
Personally though I do feel that it’s had a lot of benefits – its really developed my report writing skills, my research abilities and improved my organizational and time management skills.
Tell us any interesting facts about yourself, hobbies or interests that you have.
I’m a real bargain hunter and love rummaging through charity shops and garage sales – our apartment in Sydney is mostly furnished with things we’ve found on the street!
I also love shopping for vintage clothes and have a real passion for fashion – I always thought I’d be writing for Vogue by now!