UCL Department of Geography


Harriet Elsmore, MSc Urban Studies

Meet Harriet, a recent graduate from the MSc Urban Studies course at the UCL Department of Geography.

20 September 2023

Harriet Elsmore, MSc Urban Studies

Harriet tells us about how an interest in fictional cities led to a passion for the real thing

Why were you interested in studying urban studies generally?

During my undergraduate degree doing a BA in English Literature, I was interested in fictional representations of cities and the complexity of written urban spaces.

I decided that I'd like to learn about cities and urban spaces more specifically and gain an insight into what exactly the 'urban' is, in the hopes that I could then tie this depth of knowledge about urban studies into future readings and analyses of literary representations of cities. 

What was it that encouraged you to choose UCL to study it?

As well as UCL's prestigious reputation and location in the centre of London, I chose to pursue an MSc here because of the nature of the Urban Studies course itself.

The course is engaging and dynamic, and the diverse range of modules available cater to a variety of different interests. Because the course itself is so interdisciplinary, it meant that I could build upon my own academic strengths from my undergraduate degree. 

What were the most interesting and engaging things you learned on the course?

The MSc Urban Studies course has a good balance between theory and practice, and we were able to see how certain case studies or theories we learned about in the classroom could be applied in a broad range of contexts on the numerous field trips we went on throughout the year.

Though physically located in London, the course itself teaches urban cases and contexts from all over the world, meaning that we were able to learn about a variety of urban policies, infrastructures, politics, architectures, charities and more emerging from, and implemented within cities around the globe. 

Any particularly memorable experiences from your time as a student?

Developing my research dissertation project was really enjoyable. The freedom granted to us in choosing our focus and developing research methodologies based on our own niche interests meant that I was able to conduct fieldwork in Seoul which was a lot of fun. 

What do you hope to do in the future?

I'd love to pursue a PhD in a related field that develops from my MSc research dissertation, and I definitely think that the course has equipped me with the skillset needed for further study in the area. 

Would you recommend studying the MSc Urban Studies in the Department and why?

I would definitely recommend this course to anyone interested. The variety of modules available covers a great deal of interests, and we were really encouraged to build upon our own interests and strengths in relation to the course material.

There are a lot of field trips throughout the year, so you get to travel to a variety of spaces in London throughout the course, and the Department of Geography always circulates information about both internal and external events like book launches and seminars that we can attend, meaning we can engage with issues and debates we are interested in outside of the classroom too.

Because the course is so interdisciplinary, it means that all of the students on the course are from a broad range of academic backgrounds with different urban interests, meaning that classes always result in some really interesting and meaningful discussions, which makes for a rich and engaging environment. 

Interested in following in Harriet's footsteps? Visit our Study pages to find out more.