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Summer School 2015 Blog by Tanja Dittfeld

Summer school

Studying a master of science in development studies at Lund University in Sweden, I am evidently interested in the past, present and future trends i.e. theories and practices in international development. Seeing that the field of development to be very heterogeneous and dynamic, I continuously seek to advance my knowledge, skills and competences in relation to it. Hence, Leeds University’s advertisement for their summer school about the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs immediately appealed to me. The appeal did not only consist of the possibility to learn about the future rhetorical agenda for my field but also the critical perspectives the summer school seemed to offer on the aforementioned transition. I will admit that when I coincidentally noticed the advertisement for the summer school, I truly did not think that I had a chance of going. Nevertheless, I decided to apply for the one bursary that the Centre for Global Development offered, and I actually got it. Thus, I had the opportunity to spend four inspiring, exciting and long days in the company of exceptional lecturers engaged in a multitude of areas within the field of development such as gender, education, food security/sovereignty, religion and health, and classmates with a variety of geographical, educational and occupational backgrounds.

The heterogeneity in lecturers, lectures and participants created a dynamic atmosphere that sparked numerous rewarding discussions inside and outside of class. Personally, these discussions highlighted alternative ways of viewing and conceptualising development, and correspondingly underlined the importance of reflexivity about and in your field. This is to say that my general study and work environment have rendered a lot of notions and concepts related to development self-evident and self-explanatory to me. Hence, it triggered some puzzlement and subsequent reflection when participants in the summer school presented a view or argument challenging my pre-understandings of development.

In terms of the execution of the summer school, several opportunities were provided to interact with everyone in the class as the lecturers applied a multitude of teaching strategies including frequent discussions in small groups, role-playing and group presentations. In addition, the two facilitators and coordinators of the summer school encouraged and provided space for dialogue through changing the quickly established seating order of the class. Pre-arranged social activities with mentors from the university moreover gave the participants a way of getting to know each other under less formal circumstances and seeing more of Leeds city. In sum, the summer school was overall a very positive learning and networking experience for me. Depending on the topic, I am thus likely to try to participate again next year.

Ps. I want to point out that Leeds seems like a nice city with ample things to do, see and eat. Thus, if you do decide to go to next year’s summer school, I encourage you to stay for a few extra days to explore Leeds city and the surrounding countryside.