|14 Feb 2017|
Only one year earlier I was leaving a bank appointment for a career loan, but the high interest rates put me off borrowing money for my Masters course. With such an unstable job economy, I was afraid of not being able to repay my debt. I had already been accepted into a Masters course for three consecutive years but I ultimately had to reject the offers due to lack of sustainable funding means.
“This is the last time I go through this” I told my friend, “if I don't find a way to make it work this time, I’ll drop the idea once and for all”. It was a painful consideration. Upon completing three years of undergraduate study, juggling university commitments and two jobs to cover for my living costs, I had promised myself that one day I would have gone back to University for a Master’s degree. Dedicating a whole year to study only felt like a dream.
After five years of work in development, I wanted to join the MA in Participation, Power and Social change at IDS to improve my understanding of conceptual and methodological approaches to participation for social change, and further develop my skills in participatory processes and research. In the meantime, I had saved enough to cover my living expenses, but not the university fees.
When I read about the IDS Alumni scholarship, which is open for anyone, I was so grateful I had the opportunity to apply. Most scholarships were for either first class or overseas students only, which disqualified me, as I am an EU citizen and missed a first-class degree (by two points!).
A few months later, I called the teaching office at IDS to ask about news and was told they received an unprecedented number of applications. I knew that getting the scholarship was a remote possibility so once I received that lucky email informing me that I had been selected, I had to read it five times to believe my eyes. I was over the moon excited.
The excitement is still with me now that I’m starting my second term. I try to remind myself everyday how lucky I am to be able to attend a Master course as for many access to postgraduate education might never materialise.
The course is giving me the opportunity to reflect on my working experiences in the development sector so far, with a focus on my positionality1 and reflexivity2, challenging my own assumptions towards the world and my practice. This exercise of inward scrutiny is beautifully challenging and, at times, exhausting. Having funding from the IDS scholarship means that I can completely immerse myself in the process and take full advantage of it in a way which I couldn’t have done if I had to finance my place on the programme.
As part of this MA, I also have the chance to spend one year working closely with a small group of talented students coming from different countries and backgrounds, with different working experiences within the development sector and beyond. Thanks to this intimate set-up, I recently had the opportunity to spend a whole day hearing presentations from my colleagues applying the tools and frameworks we analysed during the first teaching term to a process of change they had been part of.
This has been an invaluable part of my MA so far, as it gave me the chance to learn from my peers as much as from an astonishingly dedicated staff of teachers and experts. In addition, I could immediately apply concepts and frameworks of participation, power and social change in a practical way, using theory to better understand and inform my practice. The programme is incredibly well structured to fill the gap between theoretical concepts and action.
In the next few months, I’m excited to focus on furthering my understanding of participatory action research through theory and experience. While at the moment I am defining the topic, structure and methodology of my research project, I will have the opportunity to conduct a period of action research in which I am looking forward to complement and share what I have learned at IDS with peers outside the academic context.
Looking further into the future, I hope to find a job that will allow me to further share and deepen my understanding of key concepts such as participation, power, social change and action research. I’m also looking forward to give my contribution to fund the IDS Alumni Scholarship so that more students will be able to participate in what has been one of the fullest experiences in my life as a student and practitioner so far.
The occupation or adoption of a particular position in relation to others, usually with reference to issues of culture, ethnicity, or gender.
A method or theory in the social sciences that takes account of the effect of the personality or presence of the researcher on what is being investigated
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