Why I chose to study International Development
In 2005 I was lucky enough to visit The Gambia, to visit some 'projects' that my school supported. This was my first experience of a developing country, and sparked my interest in the field of international development.
In hindsight the picture of 'development' I obtained whilst in The Gambia may not be the one I now currently hold, however this experience was invaluable in alerting me to enquire further into this field.
I chose to study BA International Development with Economics as my minor, because I had prior experience of studying economics to A-level, and it seemed to be a complimentary subject a 'political' major subject. I think this choice has definitely equipped me with a more grounded and contextualised understanding of both subjects.
BA International Development at Leeds... and Ghana!
The course itself far out did my expectations; by my final year I felt that things suddenly fell into place and I understood why it was so necessary to study some of the first year modules. It was a hugely interesting, well paced and informative course.
Without a doubt I most enjoyed my semester spent at the University of Ghana. Although the lectures at times were a bit hit and miss, the experience of living in a developing country, in a context of learning and not 'teaching' can not be underestimated, especially when you study development.
This aspect of the course helped me enormously throughout my third year. The experience itself was fantastic, the scheme is well organised and I would highly recommend and future students to jump at the opportunity to go. Plus, I was able to do some extensive travelling within the region, making my way from Accra, Ghana to Casa Blanca, Morocco.
To anyone thinking of applying to study International Development at Leeds I would say do it! It's a challenging, thought provoking course that's interesting and enjoyable at the same time. I think it provides you with a solid grounding and understanding of Development, which you can then use as you go into your chosen career.
I think that a degree like International Development defines part of the person that you are, in that it makes you aware of the wider world and perhaps its misfortunes. In that respect it will always influence the decisions that you take, especially in relation to your career.
My NEED internship
I now have a 6-month voluntary internship with NEED, an Indian Grassroots NGO. NEED is a fantastic organisation, lead by Social Entrepreneur Anil Singh (Ashoka Fellow). NEED is an organization of 215 social entrepreneurs, from the Northern Region of India, focused on promoting women and children and enabling livelihoods through sustainable economic development, micro-finance, healthcare and education. Currently, our grass-roots network reaches 2700 villages and 450,000 people in the rural districts in Uttar Pradesh & Bihar, India. Our projects cover a vast scope of areas and the work we do has been internationally acclaimed.
I have been given a huge amount of responsibility particularly focusing on fundraising and international promotion. Everyday is different, one day I will be communicating with a huge international donor such as DFID or UNIFEM about a new project, another day I will be in the field, the next I will be helping out in the Women’s Centre with skill upgrading initiatives.
I'm based in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a region of Northern India. Life here couldn’t be more different to home; I wear traditional Indian dress (Salwaar) to work, and eat vegetable curry three times a day! But, everyone has been hugely welcoming and forgiving for my terrible attempts at Hindi. And next week I am meeting the First Secretary of Japan!
My final year dissertation concentrated on the role of grassroots organizations, and by the end of the study I was disheartened to feel that globalization and international NGO's left little room for 'true grassroots' development, however NEED seems to manage their relationships with big international donors in such a way that the communities really do shape their own development.
My plans for the future
I am currently investigating the potential behind setting up NEED as a registered charity in the UK. Then in September I hope to go on to do my PGCE in Art and Design, although this may look like a slight detour of the track of International Development, I don't believe that it will be.
The wealth of experience I have gained at NEED has reaffirmed my personal dislike for computers and 'office job' tasks- such as bid writing. However, it has also reminded me of my love for art, through my involvement with women artisans and producer groups. Therefore after completing my PGCE in Art and Design I hope to combine my two interests of Development and Art.
Photo: Kim in the offices at NEED with CEO Mr Anil K Singh