First Steps in International Career Development for Students

In this guest post one time PAGE Tutor Gareth Wilce and PAGE Graduate Stella McKennal (now both at The International Service) are seeking volunteers for exciting new funded opportunities overseas…

First steps in a career in development – ICS with International Service
Applications for government-funded overseas placements, starting in January, on International Development projects from Bolivia to Palestine need to be completed by October 16th. Stella McKenna, International Service ICS Manager UK and International Development MA student at Leeds Beckett University, describes what could be the missing experience between your academic life and your career in development.

Studying development makes much more sense if you can gain practical experience. It’s hard to imagine life in a developing world context without being immersed in it.
In career terms, there is no way I would have got the job I am doing now with the rights-based development charity, International Service, without the knowledge I’ve gained from both my MA in International Development from Leeds Beckett and my International Citizen Service (ICS) placement overseas. I am just about to graduate and am already a manager of the coordination team here in York.

Realities, rewards and frustrations
ICS gives opportunities to do things that you just don’t usually get to do as a 21 year old, or a 35 year old for that matter. It puts volunteers at the forefront of its development practises, giving concrete skills and a real-life context to draw upon in your studies.
I started at International Service after completing an ICS placement in a small rural community in Northern Tanzania back in Autumn 2012. For those 10 weeks and at the young age of 24, I found myself engaging with women of all ages, looking to me. I gained and developed specific skills, in my case project management and planning, but the experience also helped me recognise and gain confidence in my own abilities.
But it isn’t just about gaining skills to talk about at interviews. It is an exceptional first experience of the realities, rewards and frustrations of a career in development. Moreover, you simply can’t access some of the countries and projects International Service goes to, such as Burkina Faso and Palestine. It’s the kind of experience that you can bring up and guarantee someone will always say, “oh, that’s interesting!”
‘A really supportive first step’
Talking to friends on my course, the main thing that stood out and encouraged them to apply was that the ICS scheme is a really supportive first step if you’re interested in gaining real life experience in development; it’s accessible. Not only is it funded, but the support meant I didn’t have to sort it all out myself; relieving my major worry when I decided to gain overseas professional experience of this sector.
I actually applied and completed my ICS placement before beginning my course, but there’s the opportunity to apply during your studies and go in the summer, or to finish studies and go on a January or March placement. For more experienced people, there are 6-month team leader placements, some of which offer the opportunity to use French and Spanish in a business context.
“Many volunteers I see through ICS are now popping up as colleagues in development”
You would never have guessed I’d studied Fine Arts as an undergraduate. It just shows you how much difference a mix of practical experience and academic grounding can make. Now I have the pleasure of seeing so many other volunteers undergo the same transformative journey, many of whom are now popping up as colleagues in development partners in the UK and abroad. It would be fantastic to see more Leeds Beckett students and alumni taking advantage of this great opportunity.

About ICS
ICS placements run for 12 weeks, departing in January, April, July and September so there are opportunities for current, former and future students. You can apply throughout the year, but ideally you need to apply at least 3 months ahead of your preferred departure date.

For more info and to apply Click here
Please read the eligibility criteria thoroughly before submitting the application, and when asked where you heard about ICS please state ‘International Service’.
Twitter @IntService


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