Ida Jakobsen, MA Global Development and Africa

Ida Jakobsen

Please tell us a bit about yourself

I am a 28 year old from Norway, currently living in Nairobi, Kenya. I have always had an interest in questions regarding global challenges and inequalities, but it took me some time to find the right way to pursue this interest. Therefore, I was already 23 when I started my bachelor in Development Studies with the University of Oslo. During my first semester, I got the chance to go to Kenya for 6 months and work with a local NGO in Kibera, one of Africa's biggest slums. This experience completely changed my life and enhanced my desire to pursue a career in global development, urban challenges in particular. 

After my BA, I worked for a year as an intern for Sabona - a small Norwegian NGO working in North Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. This gave me valuable knowledge and experience in the administrative operations of NGOs, as well as the challenges that follow being a small fish in a large sea of development actors. After this internship I started my MA in Global Development and Africa with the University of Leeds, which turned out to be the greatest educational experience I have had so far.

What made you want to apply to your course?

While studying for my first degree, I was determined to continue continue studying development, preferably with a focus on Africa, at Masters level in the UK. In my search for a programme, I found the MA in Global Development and Africa at the University of Leeds to be the best fit. I didn't know much about the University or the city before I applied, so it was simply the fact I found modules that were attractive to me and meant that I could get a Masters degree in something i'm really passionate about.

I'm very happy I decided to apply to Leeds as it was a truly great educational experience - an interesting and challenging course with excellent staff and fellow students.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I have always had a huge interest in global questions of poverty and inequality, as well as a desire to work with people. I have always been motivated by the drive for change and the desire to help those that are less fortunate, and I wanted to learn more about the world and why it is the way it is, what has been done to create change and what can be done still. My first stay in Kenya led to my passion for urban issues in global development, and all the challenges that follow.

What did you think of your course?

I really enjoyed my Masters course for several reasons, the main one being that I had the opportunity to get both theoretical and practical experience in my modules. I also very much appreciated how the school and the staff included us and took the time to get to know us, as well as offer guidance and help whenever this was needed. In lectures, the professors were enthusiastic and engaging and I also enjoyed the international environment within the school, studying alongside students from almost all continents.

Tell us about the learning facilities

Overall I think the facilities are great, with lots of space for both group work and individual study. I mostly made use of the PG study floor in Edward Boyle building, and the Laidlaw Library, both of which are new, modern and well designed for focus and motivation. Coming from Norway where students are forced to buy most of the curriculum, I greatly appreciated the fact that I could get the necessary literature in the library facilites.

What was the student support like?

As an international student, I found it very helpful, especially in the beginning. The school system is quite different from what I was used to in Norway, so there was many aspects of being a student in the UK that I had to figure out, and the student support regarding this was very good. I also think that the concept of having a personal tutor who can assist and guide you throughout the year is very beneficial.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies?

I didn't join any societies myself, but I attended numerous events hosted by different societies, as well as PG-breakfasts, country talks, country fairs, and a theatre show. The variety of clubs and societies is great and my impression is that there is something for every interest. I was also the course rep for my programme which allowed me to learn about the school system, other programmes and opportunities, and meet new people.

What do you think about Leeds as a city?

I loved being a student in Leeds and would without a doubt choose it as a student again. It's a compact, inclusive city filled with students from all over the world, with lots of fun things to do and places to see.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Do it! If you are really interested in Global Development issues and wish to pursue a career within the field, this programme is an excellent way to do so.

What are your career aspirations?

I finished my Masters degree in early September and started an internship with UN-Habitat the same month at the global headquarters in Nairobi. I am working for the Safer Cities Programme, where I further get to explore my interest and knowledge in urban development challenges. An internship with the UN is a great opportunity to learn and grow, but also to expand my network and hopefully open new doors. My aim is to work hard and be able to continue working with issues of urban development in African countries, preferably in an international organisation.

Any other comments you would like to make?

I am very happy with what I got out of my experience at the University of Leeds; what I learned, the people that I got to know, and the opportunities I got through the University. I never expected to enjoy being a Masters student as much as I did, and I would do it all over again if I could. The University of Leeds is a great place for education, but it is also a place that allows students to push themselves and grow personally, as well as be career-oriented in their decisions.