I will always have a place in my heart for Leicester its academic influence and personal impact on how much I now believe in myself

When it comes to making the most of your opportunities as a student, Eleanor Ferguson has done just that.

This week, Eleanor will be graduating with a BA in History, but a degree isn’t the only thing that she will be taking away from her time at Leicester. Becoming involved with the University’s Pro Bono group allowed Eleanor to find her passion for human rights and international affairs, which was consolidated by her Erasmus+ year at the Universita di pisa in Italy.

Eleanor said: “I had to learn Italian the year prior in order to be able to study there. Italy was where I discovered my passions alongside history; politics and governance. I studied a Master’s in Divided Societies and Governance as well as international relations in Italian. I was most personally struck by the refugee crisis in Italy first hand, which allowed me to pursue a similar module with the University of Leicester’s School of History, Politics and International Relations with Dr Kelly Staples.”

During her time in Italy, Eleanor kept a travel blog, where she detailed all of her travels. “Doing a year abroad changed everything for me,” Eleanor said. “My ideals, hopes and aspirations, not to mention my view of Europe.”

Upon her return, and in the final year of her BA History, Eleanor became the first non-law student of the Pro Bono group's Litigants in Person Project.

She said: “As a part of the society’s Litigants in Person committee I worked in the family courts in Leicester, providing one-to-one legal assistance. This would include proceedings to court, s8 forms to make sure your address is not used, c100 forms and others, as well as taking notes for people in court.

“This would save usually vulnerable people from paying court fees more than needed. These people would also usually be representing themselves due to lack of finances and legal aid available, so they would always be in need of someone to help explain things that may be overwhelming, such as divorce or child arrangements.

“Language barriers were also an issue- so this, after my time in Italy where people had helped me with my language barriers, was very rewarding to do.”

Alongside supporting those who can’t afford legal assistance, Eleanor undertook a multitude of extra-curricular endeavours during her time at Leicester, including working with the Amnesty International Society and mental health charities, raising money through the Great North Run and the Coast to Coast.

As a result, Eleanor made the TAB’s 100 2018 list of the most impressive, driven and inspirational women studying at universities in the UK, and was subsequently interviewed by BBC Radio Leicester.

When it comes to the highlights of her University experience, Eleanor said: “I have two stand out memories- the first would be the buzz around campus when LCFC won the league, the whole city came alive! I must admit that day I suddenly supported football! But it was a great time to be a part of Leicester and the Leicestershire community.

“The second, and more personal, would be how anxious I was before arriving in Leicester, away from loved ones, but then how quickly John Foster became my second family. My tutor, Dr James Bothwell, a role model who has helped me since day one, believed in me every step of the way - even when I got a little too enthusiastic and carried away with my research!”

“I can't wait for graduation, to celebrate and enjoy the day, it’s something I've worked really hard for. My plan now is to go to Durham University and study in the School of Government and International Affairs, which I am very excited for. The course entails human rights and policy modules which I am most interested in!

“University over the last four years has certainly been a rollercoaster, but I have changed and learnt so much, I wouldn't change a second of it. I will always have a place in my heart for Leicester, its academic influence and personal impact on how much I now believe in myself.”

Dr Kelly Staples, Academic Director in the School of History, Politics and International Relations, said: “I first spoke to Eleanor by phone shortly after she returned from Italy about her choice to study a final year International Relations module, and the risk of doing so as a History student. We needn’t have worried, as Eleanor embraced the challenges of crossing disciplines and was an asset to the seminar group. I’ll be proud to see her graduate!”

Dr James Bothwell, Lecturer in Later Medieval History, added: "Eleanor has shown a quiet determination, intelligence and originality throughout her time at Leicester which bodes very well for the future."