A Few Reasons Why I Chose To Study Geography At University*

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*This Is A Collaborative Post*

Where Does My Passion For Geography Come From?

I have always loved the subject from being a young lad and I think my family has a lot to do with it. In the case of Nature vs nurture, I believe nurture has had a great influence. So back to the beginning, my Dad was a kid in the 1940s and  early 50s so when he was a lad there wasn't much to do on a rainy day, or if all his mates happened to be grounded or otherwise engaged, other than to read books and look at atlases and maps, and on a Sunday Evening he might be allowed to listen to his Father's radio. He would also collect stamps from all across the world; specifically from the colonies and former colonies of the (at that time now breaking-up and soon to be all but defunct) British Empire.

He would travel up and down the UK via steam trains, on his own at just nine years of age, saving up for months to pay for his tickets; stopping at various stations along the way and taking down numbers and names of every one of those beautiful steam engines he saw. Even today when you see the odd commemorative steam train still in operation, I can start reading the number aloud and after two or three digits he will say, 'Seen it' or, 'Seen all that class'. 'No TV in those days', he always wryly adds.

Again some names of one's I can recollect him mentioning as a boy were the 'Duchess of Atholl' and the 'Duchess of Sutherland' in the Coronation Class of Engines. These names spurred his curiousity and he would look up the names and learn about the places; some classes of steam trains would be named after Colonies of the Empire, of famous Battles and Generals and thus to this day my dad has a general knowledge which is absolutely amazing and I'd say he passed on his passion for learning about the world. 

Like wise exotic names such as Antigua and Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Hawaii and such seemed about as far removed from Dad's reality as you could get especially combined with books filled with exotic and strange looking creatures, or with the beautiful landscapes and landmarks from around the world. Growing up in the afore mentioned slum with no electricity and no toilet (he had to walk forty yards down a lane in order to go to the lav in the middle of the night, in the Lake District in the North of England, back when, 'Winter's were Winters!'.

He also recalls taking baths in front of the fireplace, and walking up the stairs at night holding his candle for light. He would spend hours as a boy learning about these far flung and mystical places and his curiosity about the world around us was sparked in that way and as such, as a young lad, I myself was prone to spending the odd rainy day looking over maps with him and watching documentaries and shows about the world around us. Another reason for my curiosity and willingness to learn about other cultures also has at least a bit to do with my Mum and more specifically her background.

My Mum's Dad was an immigrant to the UK from what is now Ukraine, but when he was born there in 1922 it was part of the USSR. Grandad came to England shortly after World War Two had ended and so being that I am therefore a quarter Slavic, I have always had a fascination with those origins. However, due to terrible circumstances my Grandad would never ever return to his homeland. His family were ALL lost by the time the war ended. His is a story of the utmost tragedy and hardship and of courage and I shall definitely talk more about him at some point.

So, having this background I was naturally always inclined towards wanting to learn about the outside world. In fact I recently received a book called This is London by Ben Judah which is a brilliant book and it delves into the immigrant communities of yesteryear right up to the present day giving some fascinating insights into the ways in which immigrants have helped to shape and make not only London, but Britain as a whole. Unlike my Dad who lived in the same town for the first 44 years of his life, my mum grew up living something of a 'Gypsy' way of life, moving from time to time up and down the length and breadth of the country. Grandad worked on the construction of the first motorways in Britain, he worked for Laing's a huge construction company to this day, and so they had to move to where the work was at the time. 

In fact looking into my family history has been very enlightening in itself, I also found out that some of my distant forebears were French Huguenots who fled religious persecution in the Provence region of France and immigrated to East Anglia; itself of course taking its name from the Germanic tribe named the Angles, who ruled the region when England was not yet formed but was divided into several separate Kingdoms such as Mercia, Northumberland, Wessex etc. England itself obviously comes from 'Angla' Land, roughly translated, once again meaning, 'Land of the Angles'. Sorry for the random tangent, but so many people seem to view migration and immigration as fairly recent concepts, but a quick glance through history will reveal the omnipresence of human trans-migration worldwide.

As A Degree Which Can Help You Further Your Experience, Career and Skills.

Geography is a multi-skilled discipline and is divided between Human Geography (which led me to my B.A. Hons) and Physical Geography which leads to a MSc. I was naturally better at the Physical side in terms of my grades, but I didn't enjoy that aspect of geography nearly as much as the Human side. Here's a run down of what falls under 'Physical Geog'. You learn valuable skills from how to argue a point, supported with evidence and backed by a deep understanding of an issue. You will be carrying out and conducting surveys and research thesis' doing real life investigations, statistical analysis and all kinds of data analysis in general; formatting the results of research in creative and interesting ways, learning about different economies, political systems, languages and cultures from around the globe.

Andrew Charlton has written some very interesting books on such issues and one which I think is worthwhile for anyone with an interest in business or economics is Dragon's Tail. It is a tremendously engaging and thought provoking read on the rise of China as a global economic superpower, as well as looking into some of the ramifications and potential effects for Australia (His homeland).

I was also very fortunate to go to one of the strongest three Geography departments in the UK and is consistently ranked as one of the top ten Geography Departments in the world according to the QS Rankings. Whereas if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a computer scientist, then you will obviously take up the necessary corresponding medical, legal or computer-study based route to your respective career. However, for the many people out there who perhaps aren't quite so sure what career you would ultimately like to do then I would say Geography is a tremendous option as so many of the skills you learn are transferable, and the content of the courses is rigorous enough to really challenge you in my opinion.

By studying such a range of separate topics under the umbrella of geography also helps to build up a pretty good level of understanding about a wide variety of issues and concepts which are undoubtedly relevant and in some cases crucial to the future of our planet. Covering everything from human impact on the planet to the extreme urbanization and economical shifts within nations such as in Thailand in recent decades; whereby the country's agricultural industry collapsed as there was a long period of mass migration with regards to the formerly rural populations moving en masse to rapidly developing urban centers (like Bangkok) in the search for greater prosperity. Just an insight into one of the ways in which the study of geography can help develop an understanding of geo-political and socio-economic issues among others. You see geography is not just 'advanced map colouring' :)

Where Could It Lead?

There are so many roots, you can go into further academic study such as in the case of Andrew Charlton who went on to further study at Oxford as well as working as a political advisor to a Prime Minister, and of course a successful author; or perhaps you might want to become the fabled part-time geography/physical ed teacher? In reality geography graduates can be found in pretty much any industry you can think of and most of my friends are now working in business/finance. There are many options open to geography graduates. I'd recommend it as a course of study to anyone with a passion for learning about this amazing planet which we happen to inhabit.

P.S. I also loved the fieldwork element of my course, rather than being stuck in a classroom all the time, I relished the opportunities to get out in the countryside or to a city in order to conduct research. For me it just has a good mix of everything which kind of matches my curious nature.

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