Diego Cattolica graduated from BIDS in 2014 and majored in Human Geography with a thesis based on a MFS in Colombia where he went to research a coffee cooperative in a rural region. Together with fellow BIDSters he argues that “ we bring with us a more holistic perspective and understanding of development, its transformation, what it is and what it is not”.
How did you specify during the BIDS-programme (major, exchange, fieldwork, internship, other interests)?
In the BIDS programme I majored in Human Geography as it was predominantly my main interest from the onset of the programme, although I could have very well considered doing it in either sociology or economic history as I find all these subjects fascinating. In addition to majoring in Human Geography I managed to be awarded with a Minor Field Study (MFS) scholarship, funded to Swedish universities by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). I conducted my field study in the spring of 2014 in Colombia, researching a coffee cooperative in a rural region.
Sidenote: it is unfortunate that the program is lacking the participation of the economics institution, which, while not the only essential aspect, is integral to understanding development and the current world system as a whole. Many students, including myself, have expressed interests in including this (so far without success).
What did you find useful from the BIDS-programme (related to later experiences)?
I found it useful in that it helps in getting internships, as it is clear that BIDS students (most of us) are set on heading out in the field. Moreover, we also bring with us a more holistic perspective and understanding of development, its transformation, what it is and what it is not, the pros and cons that other people who are more specialised in another thing are not aware of. However, the upside is also the downside, in that what we have learned is mostly theoretical, and the only real practical practice we have is to a small extent researching. The problem with this is that we are not directly specialised in anything. Sure, we have a major, our so called “specialisation”, but in the work market we cannot really compete and contend to know more than someone who studies a bachelor in sociology/human geography etc. as we are development oriented.
I think it is a good base to have, since it is broad, but it does not go in-depth or give a student a proper niche in order to find jobs or internships. For example, many development agencies (such as UN, World Bank etc.) seek out a fair share of economists for development-related work, but without such background
Are/have you been involved in other development related activities?
I am currently doing an internship in Paraguay, in Latin America. An internship via a Swedish organisation called Weeffect (formerly Swedish Cooperative Centre) with their local partner organisation CCVAMP. It is an umbrella organisation that organizes housing cooperatives in the country.
Do you have an advise for future BIDS-graduates – what?Intern
You do not necessarily have to study development studies in order to work with aid and development agencies. While I do think it is a good thing, and would suggest that knowing and understanding development is important, it will alone not land you a job. You can study a masters in something else to niche out your profile. Secondly, networking (through internships and other e.g. social events) is crucial for building future career aspects, nurture your partnerships/friendships.
I would suggest if you want to continue down the development business trajectory, you would either want to directly continue to do a masters, or do an internship. I would suggest the latter first in case you are not sure what you want to continue studying and so you get an insight into development work somewhere and see if it suits you. Having done it this way you have some practical experience, which recruiters when looking at applicants sometimes value more than an education in and of itself.
What would you like to get out of an Alumni BIDS page?
Networking. I think it could initially be a good platform to exchange information between people with the same interests, people could give heads up on job opportunities, or decide to arrange some sort of event together and so forth. A suggestion for the future would be to create some sort of alumni network for students doing development studies in all of Sweden, similar programmes are starting up in Gothenburg and Stockholm.
Do you have any BIDS-related future plans?
The currently ongoing internship 😉 after that I might apply for a masters programme at the School of Economics in Lund, or somewhere in Scotland.