Evan Mitchell Beck was a 3rd year political science and psychology student at Queens university when he participated in the Semester in Development in Uganda.
He wanted to challenge himself and do something a little bit different. He knew he wanted to do a long term trip to Africa, but wanted to be sure that he did it with the right organization. He was looking for an alternative way to visit Africa.
PROBLEM: WANTED TO GO TO AFRICA, BUT DIDN'T WANT TO BE A VOLUNTOURIST
Evan's main hesitation was that he knew how many voluntourism companies were are out there and he didn't want that to be the way that he travelled to Africa. He wanted an authentic experience. On the other hand, he also wanted to make sure he had the right amount of support.
“I am very skeptical of trips where you're asked to pay a ton of money to go to Africa, build a school, and tour the country, while spending the majority of your time with other foreigners. I did not want this type of experience.
My other reservation was whether I could handle it. Uganda seemed like a scary place. I questioned whether I would get enough support and whether the company would actually have people there to help me through the experience. I did want more independence and a very genuine feel, but at the same time I didn’t want to fly to Africa and realize I was completely on my own."
SOLUTION: EVAN PARTICIPATES IN THE SEMESTER IN DEVELOPMENT
Evan found an alternative way of visiting Africa. He spent 3 months studying, interning and living in Uganda through the Semester in Development program.
"The Semester in Development was not a voluntoursim experience at all. I got to work with an NGO where all of my coworkers were local Ugandans. I also had the freedom and independence to explore the local culture, balanced with the perfect level of support from the SID program. I was looking for an authentic experience, and I got it.”
RESULTS: STANDING OUT TO FUTURE EMPLOYERS
Prior to his semester in Uganda, Evan was afraid of being underemployed after graduation but says that the Semester in Development really supported him in starting his career. He encourages students considering the Semester in Development to think about the long term benefits of participating, instead of focusing on the short term obstacles.
"The Semester in Development really helped me out with my career. It helped me get a good job right out of university, and helped me get my current internship with the UN in Indonesia. I found out that the main thing the UN looks for is international experience.
It really does and has set me apart when I’ve applied for jobs and internships. A lot of people don’t really think about this when considering a program like the Semester in Development.
Yes, I didn't make money for one summer back in university, but because I did [the program], I was able to get a job right out of university, where I was making more money than most people who graduated with the same degree. I encourage people to consider the potential long term benefits SID can lead them into.
The program also helped me realize how much I like traveling (especially traveling on my own). It helped me realize what my core values are and improved my social skills a lot, specificallty interacting with people from different cultures.
I stay in contact with people I met in Africa and consider them close friends. Overall, it was a really great experience that I often reflect on and I really cherish."
Interested in reading about more student experiences? Click here to read: A Semester In East Africa Led UBC student Jacob Cutts to develop New Perspectives on Development