As part of the ‘Made in Bristol’ interview series, alumna Laura Trevelyan takes us through her journey from Bristol to BBC World News America Anchor.
When I think of Bristol, I remember the suspension bridge, drinking coffee with my friends, cramming in the library, and halcyon early summer city days after final exams. I loved Bristol from the moment I set foot in Clifton as a sixth form student and was thrilled to be offered a place to read English. However, the Beowulf curriculum did not agree with me and I was soon beating down the door of the Politics Dept asking to transfer!
Dr Donald Shell kindly listened to my tale of woe, told me it was very unusual for students to transfer out of the English Dept, but he was sure something could be done. And indeed it was. Donald and Prof Mark Wickham-Jones were inspiring and engaging tutors who widened my horizons. In our final year, politics students participated in a role play exercise in which we played negotiators representing different countries in a global crisis. The scenario was realistic – conflict in the Middle East. I was a Norwegian peace maker, and we had tremendously good fun throwing ourselves into the different characters! It taught me so much about diplomacy and how personalities can affect delicate situations.
The most memorable part of my time at Bristol was going solo in a bulldog aircraft at Filton airfield, where I was in the Bristol University Air Squadron. The feeling of freedom was exhilarating, and my instructors were so welcoming. I was one of a batch of the first women to be admitted to BUAS as an experiment to see how women would do should they be admitted as pilots. The experiment was a success and women now fly fast jets in the RAF! I was the first to go solo in my class, since I was reading English and everyone else was an aeronautical engineer.
My passion for journalism came from a voracious interest in what’s going on in the world and why. I wrote for the student magazine Waysgoose at Bristol and applying to Cardiff University’s postgraduate diploma in journalism seemed like an obvious step. In 2004, I moved to the USA with my family and I covered the USA elections for the BBC as the United Nations correspondent. We loved the energy, excitement and broad canvas the US offered us, so we stayed.
The biggest challenge of my life was finding a work/life balance. It is a constant juggling act, and when my boys were little I was always exhausted and never felt there was enough time to do anything. Now they’re bigger, I have to wait up until they get home and I’m still tired! Every stage of being a parent presents different challenges. But if you want to have children and a career, there’s never a good time to have a baby. It’s always inconvenient!
It’s been a privilege to work for the BBC for half my life and becoming a US citizen was a highly significant event for me too. The Americans started the revolutionary war-crying for no taxation without representation – and as a non-citizen I felt strongly about this too! Our youngest son was born in the US, our two older boys were raised here, and we felt committed to our new home, which had welcomed us with open arms and given us so much opportunity. I was sworn in the day after Donald Trump’s election, with people from all four corners of the world, and it was a very emotional occasion. Britain and Bristol gave me roots, and America gave me wings.