It has been 96 days since I got on a plane in New York and landed at Heathrow, ready to start my term abroad at Sussex and I had no idea what was getting myself into.  I expected to have fun and learn about new cultures, and I did, but I also would have my view on life challenged daily, mostly in part to this module.

In my first blog post, I mentioned how I have gone to Jesuit schools most of my life and how that significantly shaped my view on development and social justice.  I thought my trip to Belize was a great example of social justice.  For the most part, my classmates and I come from well off homes and we were taking time out of our own lives and money from our own pockets to travel to Belize to build this amazing woman a house for her and her three children.  This is what development was to me for a long time: people making the lives of others better.

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 Soon to be mom of four standing in front of the house my classmates and I built the summer of 2011 in Belize.

But something I learned this term is that development is not always positive.  Development can sometimes hurt more than it can help.  Before, I would not think twice about the money that was being used for aid.  It went to those in need, did it not?  It never crossed my mind that the money people so generously donated to help those less fortunate was being used to line the pockets of corrupt politicians or to pay for atrocities against the people it was supposed to be helping (i.e. Live Aid in the 1980s).  But this was not the most surprising thing I learned this term.

While I was reflecting about the past three months, I kept coming back to my place in the development world.  I am a relatively privileged, having opportunities that others can only dream about, like coming to England to study and being able to travel Europe during my stay.  I have a family who supports my decisions, no matter what they may be.  But I never thought how my place in the world skews my views on development.  By Western standards, those who are less fortunate or who are employed in professions not deemed as “appropriate” are victims and need to be saved, but has anyone thought to ask them if they wanted to be saved? Just because something does not look like what we have does not mean it is wrong and needs to be changed, which I think is a big part of the mindset in development today.

These past 96 days have been such an eye-opening experience and the days spent in that lecture theatre in Fulton are a huge reason for that.  I am going to take what I learned and look at the world through a new lens and I hope you do the same.

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