Amanda Taylor, pro-snowboarder turned International Development Studies student, has one more semester of her MIDP course to go. We recently spoke to her about how she's finding the course, the experiences she's gaining with Monash SEED and the financial literacy programs they are running, and what she hopes to do next year.
Amanda was a pro-snowboarder while doing her undergrad in Politics at Monash – when she finished competing last year she started looking at longer term career options. Having a background in politics and social science, she looked for internships to give her a taster of what it would be like to work in that field.
That took her to Rome for an internship at the UN World Food Program for six months. “I thought it was an interesting place to be – it’s the world’s largest humanitarian response agency. They respond to natural disasters, conflict, all sorts of emergencies… I wanted to learn more about that. I knew I wanted to use my politics degree but wasn’t sure how.”
During her time there, Amanda learned about the world beyond political studies in the classroom, understanding more about program delivery, development projects and how those are implemented globally.
“I was a communications and policy intern, in a small team, implementing a strategic partnership policy. This involved creating training documents and developing a website that showed all the ways the organisation/divisions work.”
"Being at the internship gave me insight into how the UN system works in terms of jobs. A mentor there advised completing a Masters degree as this was vital in continuing a career."
“I decided to do the Masters of International Development Practice at Monash because of the practical focus of the course and because of the industry networks.”
I knew I wanted to be in Melbourne – “Monash stood out to me because it seemed like it wasn’t just about what you learned in a university, it was also very practical and about how you apply what you learn – I liked how there were lots of opportunities to get practical experience Oxfam/Monash Partnership”
I knew there were skills I needed to pick up, like “project management” and “research and development” – Monash SEED
Cambodia Impact trip team – planning and implementing a project.
“I’m doing my internship unit with Monash SEED this summer. We’ll be in a small village called Thnal Dach, close to Siem Reap, for six weeks.”
“A group of six of us are travelling there and there are nine of us all up in Melbourne developing a financial education program for primary and secondary students. We’re also doing some research on the options for developing an oral and feminine hygiene project, and looking for local partners to implement.”
“It’s lined up naturally that what I was learning in the classroom I can implement in this project.”
“Our team is a mixture of post-grad and undergrad, Engineering, Commerce, Arts, Law, there’s a mixture of people involved.”
Monash SEED was started by a Monash Student who noticed a gap in education in ___, where she was teaching English for a short time. Micro-finance being such a large enterprise in Cambodia, there was a lag in access to loans and financial education around terms, conditions and how to pay these loans back.
Amanda’s work will be part of the third team to go over, reviewing the project, understanding its local impacts and planning for future projects.
“Every project reviews the previous project – for the previous trip they worked on loans and borrowing, and we’ll be working on budgeting and educating on that.”
Groups go over twice a year, and has already sent two groups over.
Skills and Experiences
When I think about the challenges – I think about skills and experience. I think it’s vital to have some work experience in the sector either through volunteering or internships. MIDP has helped me address the skills I think I lacked, or were a total mystery to me – something I could then implement through internships and research projects.
“I feel like the course has flexibility for me to choose the classes that help me get the skills I think I need. I ended up taking up an elective in the Sustainability masters course – I wanted to learn how to do sustainability in a business context, how to do the measurements around that.” Amanda explained that she was able to understand which gaps needed to be filled through her work in her first internship position – working in a small team enabled her to understand the roles of the other team members were.
The Sustainability Measurement elective let me do that - could learn how to measure, set parameters, work alongside others to make a project happen etc.
Someone from the World Food Program as well – They caught up in Melbourne recently.
“It’s been a really good relationship – I’m able to ask any question that comes to mind, especially about the realities of development work. I’ve also been bouncing ideas off her for a research project.”
Amanda is taking on the research elective next year, and has had support from her mentor in thinking about that. She’s thinking of doing something related to the Monash SEED project, relating to financial literacy.
Marginal Propensity to save and financial education and why and how people save money. I want to compare that to what happens if you have a different, less financial focus (like general goal setting etc.)
“I think the staff are really supportive in recognising that students come in with different levels of experience. So for those who are coming in mid-career – for them it’s up-skilling. Those of us who are earlier in our career have a lot of support in figuring out which direction we want to go in, and in gaining more skills.”
Classes are discussion based so we can learn from each other and each other’s perspectives – particularly with great country or sector contexts. We can learn from other students too.
Monash seed http://monashseed.org/microfinance/cambodia-initiative/