"I feel that IDS has given me the right tools to interpret policies and to translate them to our daily practice."
Thijs Rutgers graduated with an MSc in International Development Studies in 2010. He now works as Manager of Business Services at the Netherlands-African Business Council.
"It is 5 o’clock in the morning. The alarm goes off and the five of us wake up. It is raining. We quickly get dressed and start our daily two hour walk. We reach a small village and continue our voyage in a horse chariot. At destination we are awaited by the chief and as it seems the entire community. The four Ethiopian researchers that I hired start interviewing the pre-selected farmers and the day begins. On our 3-week journey we managed to interview around 300 randomly selected farmers in seven different areas.
Doing research in a developing country for IDS has been the best experience for my professional career. It taught me the importance of preparation, it taught me to be creative in complex situations, and it brought me the necessary tools to lead a team under hard conditions. A truly great experience that I can recommend to everyone!
Today I am working as a manager at the Netherlands-African Business Council. In this position it is important to have a good understanding of the trade and aid policy environment here and in Africa. I feel that IDS has given me the right tools to interpret these policies and to translate them to our daily practice."
"The perfect opportunity to study with a group of likeminded people from all over the world"
Alumna Ilse Zeemeijer
After I finished my bachelor Political Science at Leiden University, I was looking for a master programme with a focus on developmental issues. This master offered not only interdisciplinary courses on topics I found interesting, but also the chance to do research in a developing country. It was the perfect opportunity to study with a group of likeminded people from all over the world and see if working in a developing country was the right choice.
The program itself is quite busy: in 5 to 6 months you have to follow your courses, finish your exams and prepare your research. I went to Uganda to study new corporate land acquisitions. Who bought big pieces of land and how did it affect the local communities? Together with a colleague from my host organization, the Uganda Land Alliance, I spoke to all stakeholders involved in five different areas, from farmer to district officers and CEOs. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
During my stay in Uganda I got an assignment to write an article on health programs in Tanzania and Uganda. It was not a coincidence: during my pre-master I did an internship as a journalist at a Dutch magazine that is specialized in the development sector. It was the final push: journalism it is! When I finished my thesis I applied for the Postdocterale Dagblad Opleiding Journalistiek, a post-academic program that turns academics into journalists. Now I’m working as a journalist at the Dutch Financial Daily. I still love it: as a journalist I learn every day.
"The centerpiece of the entire year was without a doubt the internship"
Alumnus Murtah Read
"I chose International Development Studies coming from a background in Humanistic. At the time I was looking to bridge the abstract ethics I had been trained in with more of a ‘real world’ focus. What appealed to me most about IDS was its global orientation and strong empirical grounding, favoring complexity and context sensitivity over generalizations. The multidisciplinary nature of development studies was reflected in both the course material and the various nationalities and backgrounds of my co students. This resulted in a particularly dynamic and inspiring programme. The centerpiece of the entire year was without a doubt the internship, which formed the ‘big event’ which everyone was working towards. This lead to a definite sense of shared excitement and anticipation during the classes as the days drew closer.
I spent my internship researching social movements and land conflicts in Tanzania. I was supported by the Dutch NGO Agriterra, and MVIWATA, the country’s small-scale farmer network. It was a priceless experience, the type which you can only have by stepping outside your comfort zone. Collecting and conceptualizing data amidst the power shortages, language barriers and many other uncertainties was both extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. Flexibility, confidence and reflexivity are some of the competencies which I developed during my time away. Since my graduation I have started working as a junior lecturer at Utrecht University and I will soon be starting my phd. This path is an extension of experiences I had at IDS and the love for research which I brought back from my fieldwork. "
"Strengths of the programme are open-minded lecturers, group work and strong cooperation with fellow students"
Alumna Ela Gerthner
"Recruiting, training and supervising a local team, designing a good quality household survey, analysing public health policies or facilitating a focus-group discussion – these and many more skills and pieces of knowledge I had the chance to acquire thanks to the International Development Studies Programme (IDS).
One of the greatest pros of the programme is undoubtedly the semester-long research internship. I passed that in Ethiopia and together with my great fellow student Hannah we had the chance to work with an amazing team of young Ethiopian female researchers on the aspects of reproductive health care access, women´s empowerment or health accountability. Other strengths of the programme are open-minded lecturers, group work and strong cooperation with fellow students required during any course. That prepared me practically to a large extent for my professional career.
Apart from the technical aspects of research techniques and methods, leadership skills and certain level of diplomacy, I learnt to be humble. I learnt to distinguish. Each of the countries and their regions has its own specificities and challenges which require unique approaches. People living in those places are critical drivers of the change they anticipate and I learnt I cannot behave like ‘the architect of the solution’. I learnt to listen and analyse instead.
I can honestly state that studying IDS at UU moved both my professional and personal life further."
"The relationship management skills I developed are immeasurable"
Alumna Bridget Cassie graduated with an MSc in International Development Studies in 2014. She now works as Partnerships and Business Development Officer at Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) in New Zealand.
"Utrecht’s IDS Master's programme was my first choice, as I wanted to study in the Netherlands, work in development and have field experience before getting into the workforce. The six months theory courses before the internship built my knowledge of theory, practices and methods for development research and gave me the confidence and adaptability to support my Master’s research. I spent four months in Usisya, Northern Malawi for my internship, to study the institutional obstacles that prevented females from completing their primary education. I worked with a small NGO, Temwa, where funds from Bristol, UK support community development in Usisya.
This Master's programme provided me with theoretical and practical experience that I use daily in my current employment with New Zealand’s leading volunteer sending agency, VSA. The relationship management skills I developed in Malawi with high-level education officials are immeasurable and provided me with the necessary tools to build relationships in my current employment with large stakeholders, which include the large corporates, INGOs, and UN agencies.
One important teaching that I took from my time in Malawi, and through my Master's degree, is that it is important to work alongside communities to recognise the local need and not prescribe local communities with development solutions. This philosophy is important in the work I do with VSA in the Pacific, where we work with communities to identify a need and select experienced volunteers to build the capacity of local people.
This Master's course has provided me with invaluable theoretical and practical knowledge that has prepared me to successfully work in the development sector."