Alexandros Leontiades talks about his journey from Cyprus to Cumbria and the many things he loves about being a BA (Hons) Wildlife Media student.

My top 5 reasons to study at Cumbria

Growing up in Cyprus, I always loved traveling to the UK to spend the summer holidays with family overseas.

Even though I was born, raised, and educated in Cyprus, my mum is English with family in Leicester so I think I always knew, that when the time came (and because I knew the people and the language) I would choose to study in at a university in the UK.

I’ve always been interested in photography with a real passion for animals and the natural world. From the moment I found out about the course at Cumbria, I couldn’t think about anything else and was completely fixated on going.

I couldn’t wait to explore new habitats and discover the wonderful creatures living in England’s largest National Park.

One-of-a-kind course

When I came across the BA (Hons) Wildlife Media course, I knew instantly that this three-year undergraduate degree would be perfect for me and lead me, one day, to becoming a professional wildlife photographer and filmmaker – my dream career.

From my initial research, I originally thought I would have to opt for a straightforward photography course, focused purely on photography but I was thrilled to find this course at Cumbria, the only one of its kind in the UK, where you can combine your interests in both film and photography and have access to England’s wonderful wildlife.

England's wildlife wonders on your doorstep

Every day is a nature safari in the Lake District.

I have a part-time job in a bar but when I have free time, I rent out filming equipment from the University and head straight to The Lakes to explore the mountains, lakes, forests, and rivers that are quite literally on my doorstep. The views and the walks are magnificent whatever the weather and whatever the season.

Throughout my three years studying in Cumbria, based in Carlisle I’ve been fortunate enough to capture film and footage of a range of species that are not native to Cyprus including red squirrels, otters, red deer, and ospreys.

It’s a real wildlife hotspot.

Learn from artistic experts

The lecturing team encourages everyone to pursue their artistic goals.

They are good at what they do. It’s not just a job for them. They support and encourage you constantly and even spend time out of their day to discuss problems and answer queries. I was very happy with the support I received from all my lecturers, they would always get back to me (sometimes even after 5 pm in their own time) and were helpful, clearly just wanting us to all do well in our studies. They were inspiring and helped me to look at the world differently.

The expert teaching team brings real-world experience to the classroom. With many of them working in the photography/wildlife film industry, some for over 20 years, they understand the skills needed for students to achieve success in their careers.

During the programme, I’ve studied a range of diverse modules including Fieldcraft, Biodiversity and Habitat for Media, Working in the Creative Industries and Film and Television Craft Skills, and learned to create professional wildlife documentaries.

One area that particularly stands out for me is the lectures on animal behaviour where we were taught not just how to photograph animals in the wild, but most importantly how to track the movement and activity of a diverse range of animals and birds in their natural habitats. I now enjoy bringing all my newly learned skills to find the native species to Scotland and capture them on film.

Develop your craft and boost your employability

I was pleased when, as part of the course, the University arranged a volunteering opportunity with the Friends of Rickerby Park Nature Reserve in Carlisle. A work-experience project working together with Carlisle City Council to ensure the local community could enjoy this wonderful open space in the centre of the city. I created a film to get insights into the park and found the benefits of working with the team of volunteers very valuable work experience.

When I arrived, I was more interested in photography, but over the years I have enjoyed the filming element more and more. In my final year, as part of my final major project, I worked to create a short film featuring the love/hate relationship of urban foxes in London which was fantastic. I have family in London and frequently visit an allotment that is home to a family of foxes. I approached award-winning wildlife photographer Matthew Maran, who has worked exclusively with foxes for over five years, and I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to interview him for my film.

My degree has given me lots of useful, relevant experience and examples to showcase my work to future employers.

I feel incredibly fortunate that my field projects have given me the opportunity to film otters on the Eden River, urban foxes in London and red squirrels in the Eskrigg Reserve and that the knowledge I’ve gained from my time in Cumbria will help advance me to the next stage of my media career whether that’s as a wildlife photographer or filmmaker for a TV production company.

I feel like I have a lot to give to my future employer and look forward to the next opportunity when I move down to the South of England and look for work after graduating.

My degree has given me lots of useful, relevant experience and examples to showcase my work to future employers.

Make friends for life

I didn’t mind that I arrived in Carlisle now knowing anyone – to me, that was a bonus and forced me to make new friends rather than gravitate to an already established Cypriot community. I wanted to meet people from all walks of life.

I liked living and studying in Carlisle because even though it is a big vibrant City, it always felt small enough so that I didn’t feel lost. I quickly felt like I belonged here. I liked the fact that on a night out you can meet people, and then you’ll see those same people and familiar faces the next day walking around the campus or the city. I think it was easier to make friends because of that, and I’ve certainly made some good friends during my time here.


Visit our Wildlife Media programmes in the Institute of Arts

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