“So, what do you study then?”

The question that every international development student dreads. Or, at least, I do. I can be almost certain that I will receive one of 4 reactions, and 3 of them are rather unpleasant:

  1. The stare(r). This is the main reaction. A long, hard stare. An awkward silence. The person has no idea what I’m talking about. Then I have to explain myself, which usually goes a little something like this: “Its, erm, about poverty. It’s kinda like international relations but focused mainly on poverty. You know, like hunger and health and stuff. And other things like climate change. It’s helping other countries to develop. It’s like a mixture of history and geography and politics …” and I usually ramble on so much that they’re even more confused.
  2. The interrogator. This is my least favourite reaction, and luckily one that doesn’t occur too often. It is usually someone who is very cynical and doesn’t see the point of studying development. I’ve actually been asked why I would bother and if I’m doing it for my own ‘altruistic satisfaction’ or so I can ‘feel good about myself’. I then usually get asked what I plan to do with my degree and am expected to have an exact plan. Honestly! Nobody knows what life has in store for them! I don’t interrogate you about your career choices, so please don’t interrogate me about mine.
  3. The tabloid reader/problem solver. This is someone who, apparently, knows my degree better than I do. They have a very simple solution to all of the world’s problems and usually find it reading tabloid newspapers. It’s normally something like: ‘Ah yes, I know. We have poverty because when we send all that foreign aid abroad, they swindle all the money away! Too much corruption! That’s the problem!”
  4. The acknowledger. Finally, my favourite type of reaction. Someone who smiles and says “oh, that’s interesting” and may (but not always) have a little knowledge about the subject or know someone who is involved in some way. Someone who is easy to talk to and understanding of my choices. That’s always the nicest conversation to have.

And so, first blog entry complete! I’d be really interested to see if anyone has any other reactions that they come across when telling people they study/work in development. Please feel free to comment!



Filed under Development Thoughts

5 responses to ““So, what do you study then?”

  1. As a fellow development student I either tell people that I study ‘why people are poor and how they can be less poor’ or ‘a mixture of politics and economics’. The latter makes me sound super smart and impresses people, although they usually follow up with a question on the Euro or immigration.

  2. Reblogged this on Gandhara and commented:
    The awkward conversation that I’ve had to endure over the past couple of years

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