Minami Jenkinson - BA International Development at Leeds.

Minami Jenkinson

Please tell us a bit about yourself

I am from Japan and I am currently working for a non-governmental organisation that sends volunteers abroad.

What motivated you to apply for BA International Development?

My passion for international development comes from an experience with a feeding programme I did with my host family in the USA. I was shocked at the time with how much they were smiling, even despite the severe situations they were in. Where I grew up in Japan, people had nice houses, expensive technology, never had to worry about what to put on the table for the day’s dinner; but they were not “happy” and smiling as these homeless people were. 

This experience led me to look more deeply into the lives of those in such situations, as this experience ran counter to what I had come to expect from the news or media in general. I started to look at the issue in a more global scale and from there it was a small jump to wanting to explore the idea of international development.

Tell us about your experience at Leeds

It was a wonderful experience, with opportunities to meet lots of wonderful people. I’ve met so many people from all over the world, from Europe to Africa. I felt that each person’s cultural background gave me interesting new perspectives on things that I had once considered simple just by spending time with them, as well as insights into how large of an impact one’s own culture can have.

Even though I am now back in Japan, I keep in regular contact with them and some of them visit me during their holidays, allowing me to share my own culture. Honestly, it’s just a nice feeling to feel like no matter where I go someone will be there to greet me and share their culture with me. 

What did you think of your course?

The course was inspiring, and I feel like now I have a better understanding of the world and the role international development plays in it. 

I was lucky to get a job that played directly into what I studied and enjoyed, and every day I find what I learned at university aiding me managing projects, or trying to encourage new people to get involved in improving the lives of both those we support, as well as themselves in the process.

How would you describe the guidance and support you received? 

POLIS professors were always so passionate and helpful when I asked for help for my assignments or anything about the class. They were always will to take the time and often went above and beyond to aid me as a foreign student at the university. Even after graduating I have kept in touch, especially Ms Lata, who has kept an interest in what I have been doing and has continued to support me.

How has your degree has helped your career?

I’ve been working in an NGO that sends volunteers abroad since I graduated. I chose to return to Japan and not remain in the UK because during my time in Leeds, I realised Japan does not have the same level of awareness towards international development, or world problems in general as a lot of European countries do.

I feel that it is important to inspire more people to be interested in what’s happening in the world to help make it a better place for everyone. For example, many countries are short on doctors, and as a country famous for its healthcare, I believe Japan could help lead the way in bringing medical aid around the world if simply more people were aware of the need.

What I learned in the course also definitely had an impact on choosing my career. Before I started the course, I wanted to work in a big well-known NGO, which usually rely on donations for its operations. However, leaning that sometimes they have to give up their projects or end them halfway through because of their reliance on donations, I realised maybe what we call “social business” might have a chance; a chance to be stable, and continuously support those in need of help. This is why I am currently working in an NGO that undertakes social business in order to help those in need without relying on donors.

What are your plans for the future? 

I am currently working in the Overseas Department at an NGO that focuses on sending volunteers abroad. The role itself covers a wide variety of things, from creating new programmes for volunteers to PR to encourage them to join the programmes! The diversity makes for a very fun job, and alongside the sense that I am helping both the volunteers themselves, as well as those in need, it makes me want to continue working in the international development field as long as I am able.

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

Start early. Even though it is said that international development is a hard area to get into for new graduates, it is not impossible. If you’re a foreign student, do not wait until you go back to your country, contact them as soon as they open up a position. 

But most of all, do not forget your passion for international development when you have the interviews! Just being passionate about something matters so much.