College is the perfect time to both pursue your established academic interests and test the waters of unfamiliar but intriguing subjects. As a rising senior in college, these are my 6 main pieces of advice for those of you who are enthusiastic about international development and global studies.
1. Study Abroad
Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to travel around the world, immerse yourself in another culture, and enhance your knowledge about whichever subject you choose. I studied abroad last summer in Rwanda and Uganda and this was without a doubt the highlight of my college experience. I studied the histories of both states and humanitarian crises that occurred there, lived with local families, and solidified my interest in global development. Although the financial requirements of studying abroad may appear steep, there are many scholarship opportunities available through the study abroad program as well as private funds. Explore your study abroad options, and do not hesitate to set up a meeting with your school’s office!
2. Find an internship or volunteer position
If you are passionate about a certain field you should highly consider getting an internship or volunteer position with an organization or company in that area. Getting hands-on experience at an organization is the best way to learn about what a career in this field would look like and if you could see yourself enjoying it. While your position will most likely be entry-level, you will have opportunities to listen in on important meetings, conduct at least a few research assignments, and spend time with coworkers who share similar interests and interesting experiences. At Village Enterprise, I have been able to apply concepts from my political economy classes and learn more about how a microenterprise nonprofit functions. I have been working in the social media and marketing department and learned a lot about this area, and have also I have had exposure to field operations.
3. Join clubs
While it sounds cliché, joining clubs and organizations on campus will open up so many doors for you. You will meet people with similar interests, learn more about your interests outside of the classroom, and gain leadership experience that can be valuable for your personal growth as well as life after university. Clubs range from the practical and academically engaging, such as Amnesty International or honors societies, to the quirky and fun, like Harry Potter or knitting clubs. I have had some of my most rewarding experiences through clubs on campus. It is a great way to learn about other peoples’ interests, and their experiences, and make some friends.
4. Keep up with the news
If you have a desire to study a subject in the social sciences, forming a habit of keeping up with the news will put you at an advantage throughout your studies. As a college student it can be very difficult to spend time reading the newspaper or magazines. I have found that setting the home page of your internet browser to your preferred news network is a gentle reminder to check the news, and a simple way to at least see the top headlines at that moment. If you commute, listening to NPR or another news station is another great way to catch up on world news. Follow Nonprofits, International Organizations, News Organizations, companies, and other interesting groups on Social Media. While you are aimlessly scrolling through your news feed hoping to put off your essay for another hour, you could be receiving updates from organizations like Village Enterprise or the UN with updates from the field. Getting into this habit now will give you a headstart in your social science courses!
5. Talk to your professors
While professors can be a bit intimidating at first, they really are great resources. They likely have a lot of valuable experience in their field of study, and would be happy to impart their wisdom upon you. Don’t be afraid to pick their brain about their experiences in their field and what made them choose to study it. If you are still unsure of what you want to study and want to know more about their field, ask them about it. They can give advice about which classes to take based on your interests and which ones to avoid. If you really like a professor and mesh well with their teaching style, look at which other classes they are teaching. If these classes are in an interesting subject area for you, you will probably get a lot out of them.
6. Your happiness is key
While it is wonderful to challenge yourself with difficult and exciting courses and new subjects, do not overload yourself. If you think you are in over your head, go talk to your professor. He or she is there to help you, and it is better to communicate your concerns sooner rather than later. If you find yourself constantly stressed, try to incorporate yoga, an hour at the gym, a free therapy session at the university health center, or a skype session with a friend from home into your weekly routine. Study hard but make sure you have fun along the way.
Each piece of advice I mentioned above has helped me discover and strengthen my passion my for international development and human rights, while enhancing my overall college experience. My interest in these areas as well as East Africa led me to pursue an internship with an international development nonprofit organization and I was thrilled to find this position with Village Enterprise. Village Enterprise alleviates poverty and empowers women through its innovative microenterprise approach. I fully support the mission of Village Enterprise and the work it does, and I am very glad to have this learning opportunity.