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05 July 2011

Ruth Graystone - Student

Ruth Graystone - Student

Ruth Graystone is a student at the University of Manchester studying International Relations. Alongside her degree she has participated in the Three Faiths Forum Undergraduate ‘ParliaMentors’ scheme, spent a day shadowing Desmond Tutu and completed an internship with Micah Challenge, Canada. With only one year left of her degree to go Ruth is simultaneously researching potential dissertation topics and career opportunities, both in the area of politics and development. She most enjoys weekends, long phone calls and occasionally water skiing.

Why did you choose international relations as a study?

Because it's real life. It's happening. The issues I research in my degree are affecting real people in real (if far away) places. Whenever I choose a module I think, my decision to study this will potentially change the way I live my life from this moment on. It will introduce me to a whole new area of the world that I've never thought about before, whether it's a region, such as Europe, or a theory, such as questioning the presence of morality when making a tough political decision. 

What did you learn at the Three Faiths Forum's Undergraduate ParliaMentors programme?

I learnt that the spectrum of belief and unbelief is much fuzzier than I anticipated! I stand firm in the knowledge that the truth has been revealed to Christians through the person of Jesus. However, I'm less convinced that this truth in any way excludes my co-participants. I was humbled by my Jewish colleague's detailed knowledge of the Old Testament and by my Muslim colleague's concern for the self-image of the young people with whom he worked. 

Are you aiming to go into politics?

Yeah, potentially politics, or development in some capacity. I'm still in the process of putting my feelers out into the world of work to see what people are doing with a degree like mine. If anyone thinks their job is particularly interesting and would welcome an enthusiastic and interested student please make contact! Although I think top marks for this question go to people who respond that politics is everywhere, in every word we speak, every relationship we form and every deal done.

Millennium Development Goals - eight aspirations too far?

Absolutely not. I think the MDGs have been key in generating discussion, focusing attention and spurring on hope for the future. I fear that we're likely to fall short of many of the targets.  But the MDGs symbolise more than a mechanism for raising aid flows. In the last essay I submitted I quoted Peter Drahos who defines hope as "imagining and believing in the possibility that some state of affairs in the future will come to pass." By recognising and actively engaging with our current limitations, we can affect the future we want to inhabit. 

What makes you angry?

Ha! Drivers pulling out in front of me…Girls wearing leggings with no skirt? Don't know if I would describe it as anger though! 

What's your best memory of your school days?

The daily companionship of my best friend Katie who continues to be a faithful friend. 

What's your biggest disappointment so far?

Finding a really great church and then discovering that they don't regularly involve women in leadership. I think this was just God's next challenge though. I guess I'm glad to go to a church that is wrestling with these tough topics rather than not. 

What are you doing with your three months summer holiday?

I'm working as a corporate advisor with the charities team at the Co-op Bank, trying to help not for profit organisations make the most from their money (whilst making a profit from them). I decided that if I was going to explore a future career in development, I had better at least be well aware of what was happening in the corporate world to help organisations with a common social thread. I've only just started but I'm already confronting interesting ideas surrounding the notion of mixing of private investment with altruistic aims. 

Any advice for those graduating from secondary school this year? 

Choose carefully what you want to do next. I took a gap year after high school because college wasn't the right thing for me at 16. I went back at 17 having decided what I wanted to do and with a clearer idea of why I wanted to continue with my education. Also… do politics A-level. It works well alongside all your other choices and everyone at 16-18 should learn both how decisions are made in the world and that decisions are made by real (fallible) people. 

What's the best and worst thing about being a student?

The best thing is that (with patience and persistence, after mingling with lots of different types of people) you stumble across people who are excited by similar things to you, be that politics, religion, sport, music, etc. I am also still amazed that I log into my email account to find emails from the university offering me a whole range of opportunities. Anything from an offer to climb Kilimanjaro to participating in the Three Faiths Forum. What an amazing thing! 

The worst thing, in stark contrast to my best thing, is that studying often feels isolating. I regularly spend days on end at my desk wrestling with challenging thoughts and theories. That's why I and no one else will own my degree come June 2012, but sometimes in the midst of a tough essay I wish I could share the brain ache.