Guest alumni blogger – Monica

Hello everybody! My name is Monica, I am a former student and employee of the University of Reading. I did my MSc in Soils and Environmental Pollution at the Soil Science Department back in 2011, having chosen to do it here as this is one of the best (if not the best) department to study contaminated land issues in the UK.


I still remember how easy it is to adapt to the student’s life, my days volunteering at the Reading Film Theatre, the international atmosphere on campus, the nights out and of course the big boat night party organised by the Latin American and Spanish Society. Gone are the days when I spent hours making recipes in the lab studying how contaminants absorbed in the human gut, but the working experience and my masters degree at the University of Reading opened the doors for me to get a job easily as an environmental consultant which is what I was doing until very recently.

My eagerness to learn new things all the time led me to teach myself how to create websites. As we all know, more and more our lives and everything around it is moving towards the internet. Also, if you ever want to create your own project or business you will need a website and social media interaction to make it successful. My first creation is the website which has just been created. As it name suggests this website provides information and tests to prepare for the Life in the UK test, which is a test that individuals seeking British nationality have to pass and which assesses the applicant’s knowledge about all aspects of British life, its traditions, history, culture, community life and political system. This was a good way to put into practice all the skills I have gathered at the same time as helping people preparing for the exam. And of course, to gain a bit more knowledge about Britain, so next time I go to a pub quiz I hopefully get a few more answers right! Whether you are a UK national or not, if you are up for the challenge and want to give it a go to see whether you would pass the test or just for fun you can try at Or watch a video test here.


And you may be wondering why is an environmental consultant developing a website about the life in the UK? Well! As I mentioned above, knowing your way around the internet is very important these days for whatever you do. Also, the fact that I am learning new skills doesn’t mean that I don’t love what I previously studied or that I do not want to do it any more. Just think about all the opportunities you can have by combining different skills!

An example is this blog, which didn’t exist when I was a student at the University of Reading and which is a great opportunity for people to be kept on the loop of what is happening in the university and to re-gain contact with old classmates.

Thank you very much to Monica for being our guest blogger. We are always looking for new bloggers – if you would be interested, please get in touch by emailing

SPEIR anniversary coming up!

In the 2014/15 academic year, we mark the 50th anniversaries of both the Economics and Politics Departments. Both were created out of the Department of Political Economy in 1964, and since 2011, are united again under the roof of the vibrant School of Politics, Economics and International Relations (SPEIR).

SPEIR Nostalgia pic

This black and white photograph portrays the Political Economy Department of 1964, outside the HumSS building where our students still learn today.

This year, while we are celebrating the past 50 years of world-leading research and teaching in both departments, we are also looking forward, and want to build on our undisputed record and strengths in research, teaching, and engagement with the wider world. Politics, Economics, and International Relations at Reading have never been more exciting than today!

Ground-breaking research

•     In 2014, our School performed highly in the Research Excellence Framework results. The research outputs from Politics and International Relations were ranked in the top 10 of the country.
•     Professor Catriona McKinnon is leading a new interdisciplinary doctoral training programme in climate justice that is supported with over £1 million from the Leverhulme Trust. Find out more here.
•     We host four cross-disciplinary research centres: the Ways of War Centre, the Centre for Developing Economies and Emerging Markets (DEEM), the Reading Ethics and Political Philosophy Centre (REAPP) and the Centre for Institutional Performance (CIP) have hosted a large number of events throughout the term, bringing together leading scholars.

SPEIR pic 1

Innovative teaching

•     We run one of the only Model United Nations (MUN) modules in the country, with students organising an annual MUN conference in Reading, and participating in MUN conferences across the world – and normally returning with a bag full of prizes!
•     Next year, we will for the first time run a Parliamentary Studies module, which is directly supported by the Houses of Parliament. Find out more here.
•     The weekly lunchtime ‘Conversations’ in Economics, where students and staff discuss the economic dimensions of current affairs, are a very popular addition to our formal teaching.
•     More of our students than ever are undertaking valuable and inspiring placements. Recent appointments have included working for the Foreign Office, Human Rights UK, and even the retail analytics division of Disney!

Engagement with policy

•     Staff members of the departments are working with government departments like the Department for International Development (DFID), Communities and Local Government, and the military.
•     We are running regular Policy in Practice events, with speakers from the policy world, and policy papers that develop the implications for policy and practice of our research.

SPEIR pic 2

Look out for events celebrating our half centenaries over the coming months! Click here to read our termly newsletters and hear about our upcoming events.

Did you study Politics, Economics or International Relations at Reading? We’d love to hear your stories! Get in touch at and let us know.