I have learned a lot from being in college, and I will hold these concepts dear to me for the rest of my life. I have learned that I have agency to enact change and that my voice is worth hearing. I have learned how to listen and that people who are unable to do the same for me are not worth my time. Most importantly, especially through my Sociology major, I have learned to question doctrine and how to notice and acknowledge my own privilege.
My privilege was especially apparent when working with a nonprofit in Dalun, a village in Northern Ghana, to identify at-risk youth who were not attending school. It was challenging to try to convince parents to send their children to government schools, where the teacher might show up, instead of having their children stay home to help with the family business or on the farm. Over the course of this experience, I accumulated a great degree of respect for the young men running the organization I worked for, who had been unable to finish schooling and want to change their neighbors’ futures. Despite these obstacles, the corrupt testing practices, and problems of access, these men have made it their mission to advocate for education, a practice in which they would always believe.
As an International Studies major who has done some work in international development, I have witnessed the White Savior Industrial Complex, especially in the context of my internship in Ghana. I almost lost faith in the idea of international development, worried about associating with the idea that, as a white person, I was only abroad to work for my own personal “development.”
I have since joined with successful, sustainable organizations that work to empower and maintain and facilitate rather than start projects and leave. Through Profugo, I have found devoted, earnest change-makers who seek to empower each person they work with, whether a participant in one of the projects in Wayanad, a person purchasing one of the women’s bags produced by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, or a student like me who has taken interest in working with the organization.
I suppose what has been most important to me is to learn that making an effort really counts. From reading the label or the fine print to giving someone an extra chance, knowing you won’t have to settle and holding out for the best can be a pretty darn good thing in the long run. You don’t have to pick the one-size-fits-all. You don’t have to spend money on a product whose origins are unknown, taking the easy way out and potentially contributing to efforts with which you disagree, including child and factory labor. It’s much more meaningful to me to buy a vegetable that was grown in my state with fair practices and to purchase products associated with international sustainable development. I don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a purse in order to receive recognition, but can instead make investments in a story I can pass on to others. I hope to keep all of these factors in mind when searching for jobs (especially not settling!) but I recognize that I’m still only at the beginning of my journey and I’m allowed to make mistakes. I look forward to the growth that the future brings.