Why should students care about international development?

So you are currently spending an extortionate amount of money to attend some lectures and get access to Jstor, all in the attempts to prepare yourself to get a job in the harsh post 2008 world. You probably fall in to one of two categories, either you think you should utilise your time as a student as productively as possible, kitting out your CV with all manner of committee positions, or you think your going to be spending the rest of your life doing things you aren’t that keen on and thus are spending as much time ‘having fun’ as possible (normally means incapacitating yourself for some reason). Which ever of these categories you fall under, you should still care about international development, and here’s why.

David Cameron and his merry men are not generally seen as the most caring of people (bedroom tax anyone?) and yet even they have raised our national aid contribution to 0.7% of gross national income, making us the first G8 country to meet the target suggested by the UN way back in 1970. So we are already doing our bit to help out people less fortunate? Well kind of, but we are in a unique position to do more. Students are an incredibly rare group of society in the sense that they are often willing to work for free. I’m not saying I support unpaid internships, I’m just saying we get very long summers. Yes you have to earn some money to sustain yourself during the following years ‘studies’, but lets face it, you could sacrifice a couple of weeks of Netflix for something more productive.

Whether you are in the ‘must add things to my cv’ group, or the ‘must have lolz’ group, volunteering in a developing country is one of the best things you can do. Despite what the ‘gap yah’ mockers say, volunteering abroad can genuinely help. You are a (lets hope) well-educated, intelligent, capable person – people who have been far less lucky in the hand life has dealt them, are genuinely grateful of your help. Whether that is building a school or teaching in one there are a variety of different types of projects, and different ‘providers’ of these to choose from. Its normally loads of fun, as you meet like minded people who are volunteering with you, as well as getting to experience a culture and environment completely different to our own. I could give you some cheesy schpeel about how the experience will help you grow and develop as a person, (however lame that sounds, its normally true). In reality though, despite what cynical naysayers may claim, you don’t do it for yourself, you do it because you could make a difference to someone’s life that has been 10 times harder than yours, you do it because you can.

If you want to learn more about international development, the issues surrounding it and how you can get involved and volunteer abroad then come along to the York International Development Conference 2014 taking place on the 1st and 2nd of March in Alcuin. Follow us on twitter @YorkIntDevConf to stay in the loop.