This is a dichotomy that I have considered at length over the past year, as I have investigated global poverty and poverty alleviation methods, and as I prepare for my summer experience as a Nest Fellow in Guatemala. In recent years, work in international development has become increasingly “mainstream.” Celebrities like Bono and Brangelina are partnering with non-profits and NGOs, donating millions to development, and encouraging world citizens to get involved. Each year, thousands of students travel abroad to participate in cultural immersion, community service, and international internship programs – many of which involve paying hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars to a third-party organization to facilitate an experience that will not only allow the students to “give back,” but will also be fun and exciting. But who really benefits from these experiences? How beneficial is it for a group of students to travel to a developing country, complete a brief service project – lasting just weeks or months– and then spend the rest of the trip travelling, exploring or adventuring?
Ultimately, what most excites me about my rapidly approaching Nest Fellowship is the ability to take on a job that's not limited to a 9-5 workday, sitting behind a desk in an air-conditioned office, with a complete separation between work-life and home-life. By living and immersing myself in the community where I will be working, I will have the incredible opportunity to constantly learn, reflect, and build upon the work that I will be doing, and to build strong relationships with people and communities with whom I will be working. This, as Hayling explains, is what makes giving back "mutually beneficial."