Growing up with a sister working for UNHCR, Frederik was early introduced to the concept of international negotiations. He is now working for the Danish Ministry of Health in the Unit of International Corporation.
I met up with him in a café in Copenhagen to learn about his experiences during and after BIDS and how he ended up working for a ministry.
Where are you from and what led you to studying the BIDS program?
I am from Denmark and after high school I went to volunteer in India with ActionAid’s Global Platform. I have always been highly interested in political issues and I was lucky to discover the BIDS program at Lund University.
I majored in Political Science and generally focused a lot on international negotiations and climate changes. On my 4th semester, I went on exchange at University of Dublin. Honestly, I went by coincidence – but it was great! I took courses in international negotiations, human rights law and sociology of violence, which was very similar to International Politics. On my last semester, I conducted field studies in the Northeastern part of India, Assam. I was put in contact with NIAS, The Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, and looking at a flowing island marginalized and threatened by climate changes. We had a methods course on 5th semester, which was useful for my 1 month-long fieldwork.
Extra-curricular activities during the BIDS years?
In my last year of BIDS, I was a student representative and introduced new ways for students to evaluate the course, engage in their studies and be able to influence the program. During BIDS, I was living in Copenhagen, where I was engaged in several volunteer activities throughout the program. When I look back at my 3 years studying in Lund, I had 3 (unofficial) homes: My apartment in Copenhagen, couches in Lund, and last not least: the train.
After graduating from BIDS in 2013, I was asking myself: “Do I want to continue in this field of ‘development’?”. I couldn’t choose which master to study, so instead I felt like gaining some practical experiences and test how this NGO world is in reality. I took half a year internship at the advocacy unit at the Danish NGO Folkekirkens Nødhjælp and worked later in the political unit at Save the Children Denmark. Both truly amazing experiences!
And then what did you decide to study?
In 2014, I started the master in Global Health Studies at University of Copenhagen. I believe that global health is an area of the “development world”, where international corporation can actually do something.
And how about your jobs?
When I started my master, I was hired by Save the Children Denmark as a student assistant. I find it very interesting and inspiring to be in a NGO environment, but I also wanted to learn “from inside” the power structures. On my 3rd semester on my master, I applied for an internship at the Danish Ministry of Health – today most ministries have international units. When I finished the internship they offered me a job, so I chose to enhance that opportunity and take a leave from my master (I just need to write the thesis). Now I work full time among other with development projects between the Danish, Brazilian, Mexican and Vietnamese governments. I am learning a lot from this, but I also miss the NGO world, where you are able to speak and engage more freely.
What skills did you get from BIDS?
A lot! At all my internships and jobs, I have been able from the very first day to understand the language and “slang of Development Corporation”. Another important skill is the natural habit of asking critical questions and not be too naïve. For me, it feels natural to combine different disciplines, which is not always a shared feeling amongst my fellow colleagues, who in majority are former law or political science students. I definitely see it a big benefit to have studied BIDS, as I have a very general political understanding, and yet specific in regards to development corporation. And at the end of the day, to me, what you learn at university is to write, read and comprehend complex issues. I definitely learned these skills studying BIDS!
Other general advices for future BIDS-graduates?
It’s a shame to worry too much about the title or status of your degree. You are the one who decides how to use it, and if you are engaged and motivated you can show that, your degree is just as important as any other. I recommend you to take any relevant internships, student assistant jobs and volunteer jobs – well any practical experience. Be proactive! Another concrete advice is to work on your languages; speaking a3rd or 4th language is an asset, which is highly recognized and valuable in the international corporation world. I’m still terrible behind on that part.
And finally: Enjoy the student bubble of Lund, where you can create friendships for life. Life is long, and there is tons of time to gain experiences even after graduation.
Interviewed by Clara Nepper Winther