“As a BIDS student, you go to any dinner conversation – you have something to say.”
Growing up in Denmark made Adriana want to study in an international environment, which led her to study the BIDS program. In 2014, she finished with a major in Political Science.
I met up with Adriana in a café in Copenhagen to discuss her experience during and after BIDS and to reflect on how we can make a change.
Where are you from and what led you to studying the BIDS program?
My name is Adriana, I am from Portugal but grew up in Copenhagen. I have quite an international educational background, which is why I wanted to study something international with a broad perspective. Also, I loved geography in school. And that is basically how I decided about BIDS. I thought: This is my strongest asset; this is what I have. Combining history, geography and social studies – and you kind of get BIDS.
The BIDS Experience
What did you choose as your major?
I majored in Political Science. But in my opinion, it is not Political Science. When they put “Political Science” as a major, it’s kind of misleading. It is not classical Pol.Sci, it is development. It is how the institutions work. If you don’t have an idea of what democracy is, what a state is, how states are formed, I don’t think Political Science is what it says it is. I thought I would love it, but then I came to the realization that it was not for me, it was too narrow.
What about 4th semester and exchange?
For my exchange studies, I went to Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Holland. It was fantastic! I was at the department of Behavioral Sociology. It is quite a small department, but they really focused on why people do things the way they do. I felt more at home. So if I could have gone back in time to pick my major, maybe I would have chosen Sociology.
Any advices in choosing major/courses?
I wish someone had told me about this before: Think about what is the department of Sociology, or Human Geography, focusing on? What are the professors researching? Because that is what they will teach you. But nobody ever tells you that. But the professors don’t really share, so my advice for students choosing a major is to go to the department website, look at the articles being published. What is the head of the department researching? For example, when I applied for masters, I researched my professors and looked at some of the articles they have published. Then I know more or less their interest, what they are researching and their perspectives.
What about your last semester and your bachelor thesis?
I did the literature review, and it is actually all right! But I feel that everybody should do it, not just people that couldn’t go away on field studies or internship. It should be mandatory. It was difficult to get internship with the time limitation. My thesis was on “The Politicization of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”. How it is becoming an issue, just the term “SRHR” was not a term until recently. However, I was not in the right department. Once again important to think about your thesis when choosing your major, which is not possible. But your major can limit your thesis a lot.
Extra-curricular activities during the BIDS years?
I was the student representative and very active in the Social Science Student Union. Back then, there was no PLUTO, I was kind of in the back of setting up PLUTO. I worked in different committees within the union, and then as a volunteer for 3 years for Project Sex (P6). And in my last year as board member of P6.
Right after BIDS, I took a gap year. The BIDS gave me such a rainbow of choices, which is fantastic, but also quite difficult to find a master that is something you are passionate about. Anyone can take a master, but are you really passionate about this field? I didn’t want to just study for the sake of studying, so I took my time to think it through thoroughly. I took an internship in a grassroots organization for a half year.
I also took courses in Gender Studies, part-time, together with Danish language studying. The Gender Studies made me very motivated to study something with rights and health.
So now, since summer 2015, I’m studying a Master of Science in Public Health at Lund University, which is located at Malmö Hospital. It’s very well funded! They have more resources available than BIDS, but are also more strict in comparison to the BIDS program. You cannot just take course outside the department. There are several other BIDS students who have taken this master.
Any future long-term plans in the development field?
Well, I like to improve and keep learning about how to get a message across, that is what development is, right? If you don’t know how to speak to people, how to get a message across, how can you make a project? You can’t.
If you want to influence policies or projects, start with what is closest to you.
What skills did you get from BIDS?
In my master studies, I have classmates, which have a more scientific background, but we BIDS students have a broad array of social skills. We see things from different perspectives.
And being student representative helped me and gave me so many skills, how to take notes, being organized, how to delegate work to someone, making an agenda. Skills which are needed in many working capacities.
But could BIDS sometimes be too broad?
I don’t think so. It may seem like that in the beginning, as a superficial level of studying. But I can tell you that you go to any dinner conversation, you have something to say. That makes people listen, it makes people intrigued and interested in you. And if you can have a conversation with practically anyone; that makes you a social bee and you can network with anyone. That is fantastic!
It is about being able to converse with people on different conversational levels, on different topics.
Did the BIDS diploma give you good opportunities for studying a master?
Definitely! There are limitations, for example you can not do a Human Rights master, because you need to have a bachelor in law. But you can do others that are social science oriented. But not a pure Master in Political Science; it is not possible as Political Science major because again, that is not classical Pol.Sci.
Other general advice for future BIDS-graduates?
I am going to have to go with what my teacher said. That was: “If you want to be an average student you read what’s in the literature. But if you want to be an academic you will never stop reading”. Honestly, when I started reading for my thesis I spent days just reading articles. “Oh, I’m interested in this, I’m interested in that!” I would go to the literature list and pick out things that would catch my eye – that is an academic in my eyes. That is my advice: Read beyond the literature. In development, there are a couple of big names – read those. And go to their literature list and read those.
Another advice: from day one, if you want to do an internship, then you should definitely be a go-getter and start contacting NGOs or companies. Be proactive! Perhaps I was a bit passive, I just went to a couple of interviews. If you get a very good internship of 6 months, graduate later. A lot of internships will require that the student is enrolled in a study in order to be an intern. The privilege of studying in Sweden is that it is flexible and you can take a break. Go gain some experience and come back.
My biggest advice in any economic crisis is: Get experience. Make sure you finish your degree but try to get as much experience in whatever you do. It doesn’t matter, even if it is a part time job. Get work experience. Because you do not want to graduate with only a degree. You need to have something else!
Interview conducted by Clara Nepper Winther
Proofread by Yannick Schwarz