International Relations and Humanitarian work?

posted 8 months ago in Career
Post # 2
2788 posts
Sugar bee

dobby98 :  You can do a lot of good with your dentristry studies. Look up organizations such as Doctors without Borders.

Post # 3
252 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2019

I studied IR in college, and these types of (paid) positions are really hard to come by. If it is paid, it’s almost nothing. You would need connections.

In the US, some people go to work for the State department (knowledge of languages spoken in the Middle East is highly desirable), but it’s a 2 year process to be in foreign service, with no guarantees you’ll even be called up for a position, and you must go wherever they assign you in the world.

Second PP who suggests Doctors without Borders or volunteering. You can use your dentistry skills abroad and it will be a much easier path for you

Post # 5
461 posts
Helper bee

I know for doctors/nurses there are loan repayment programs for working in underserved population areas—Indian Reservations, inner cities or really rural areas kind of thing. I would guess there are similar things for dentists if you decide to stick with that! So it allows you to work and pay off the school loans but also help people who have extremely limited access to care! Maybe an option? 

Post # 6
13386 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

You can do a lot of good with a dentistry degree in poor areas, and there are loan repayment/forgiveness programs for people who work in underserved communities.  

I know a lot of people with IR degrees and honestly, half of them don’t work in IR, or politics, or anything like that. 

My only othe advice is to intern for humanitarian organizations and see what you think.  You might not be able to be in the field, but you might be able to work in an office to support the effort and see if you really want to pursue this avenue.

Post # 7
6251 posts
Bee Keeper

dobby98 :  I also studied IR in college and I can only think of two friends who actually are directly in the field (one at the UN and one in the State Department). Outside of NY and DC there aren’t many well-paying opportunities in this field so I know myself and many of my classmates went into different fields post-graduation. 

Post # 8
1853 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017

I live in West Africa and work in literacy and education for a faith-based NGO. I got into it through church connections. I have been here for 4 years.

I agree that there’s a lot of need for dentistry, so that is an option, but you also say you don’t want the science.

Would you be willing to stay in the US and work for an NGO? As others have said there are a limited number of roles in the field. Many field roles require a lot of mobility – changing country every couple of years – is that something you’re open to?

Do you volunteer at the moment? I think it’s important to have a heart for humanitarian causes wherever you are – not just when abroad.

Post # 9
1853 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017

A few more questions – do you already speak some Arabic or would you start from scratch? Learning a language well enough to work in it takes serious time and study. 

Are you okay with a low salary?

Are you okay living in a country with a lower standard of living? Living with security threats?

Post # 10
3746 posts
Sugar bee

So, you want to help.  In what capacity?  Are you envisioning yourself on the frontlines interacting with the people you want to help?  Or working from afar?

Because International Relations is an interdisciplinary major that by itself isn’t worth a whole lot unless your primary goal is to be a diplomat (extremely selective) or work in government doing policy making.  And while policy makers are necessary, I’m not sure people in the Middle East and Africa really need us to do that for them or that it helps them in their daily lives.  They need teachers and translators and agricultural experts and conservationists and doctors and other health care providers and human rights and/or immigration lawyers.  I get that you aren’t jazzed about being a dentist, but your skills as a dentist are going to be far more useful to them than your positing your theories on diplomacy.

I could maybe see an IR double major or a minor with a major in a more skill based area – like education or communication, particularly technical communication specializing in grant writing and eventually working in fundraising.  Or IT or engineering or agriculture- things that build badly needed infrastructure.  Nursing, nutrition, social work, mental health would also be really applicable fields.

Post # 11
878 posts
Busy bee

I did something a little different but I can give you my experience. I LOVE animals and have always wanted to work with them so that’s what I’m doing now. That being said I’m also very passioniate about humanitarian type issues as well. I served for 3 years in the Peace Corps in Tanzania (a typical length of service is 2 years but you have the option to extend if you like) and it was seriously one of the best times of my life. I still keep in touch with my Tanzanian family and recently went back for 3 months to visit with them. You can do different things in the Peace Corps so you can choose what you think will suit you. They also used to just send you where ever but they’ve recently changed that rule and now you get to pick which country you will serve as long as they have a position open in your field. You do need a BA/BS to be elligible to serve. I plan on serving again, but with my husband this time, after paying off the rest of our school debts. If you are married they will place you with your spouse. There is something so amazing living in a country like Tanzania (or really any of the countires PC serves) and you do actually feel like you are making a difference and since you are living amongst these people you get to see the difference. I love my current job but serving in the Peace Corps was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Plus, you become fluent in a language almost no one will speak. I still speak Swahili and reguarly go to a Kenyan church near where I live so I can practice – they all find it hysterical that this white girl can speak it so fluently. 

Post # 14
236 posts
Helper bee

I work in a similar field, and my sister works more directly in humanitarian/foreign aid! It is a very rewarding career path & I’m glad I didn’t give up my dreams & go work at a for-profit company somewhere, but it isn’t necessarily an easy path.

My sister & I both graduated at the top of our class from a top-notch university and still had to move to DC and work unpaid internships for a while. Then we both ended up in pretty terrible jobs for a year or two until we were able to get hired at better places. I really hustled & had to work my butt off in order to make that happen. I know a lot of people who gave up & went home, or ended up stuck in low-level positions doing administrative work when it wasn’t what they wanted to do. Only a fairly small percentage really make it. 

I don’t say that to discourage you, just to give you a clear picture! I do think the idea of doing dental work for underserved populations is a great one. I also don’t know how much time & money you’ve already invested in pursuing dentistry that you’d have to give up & start from scratch in order to switch paths. If it’s not that much then I’d be more likely to encourage you to do it, but if that’s not the case then you should definitely consider your options very carefully. 

Post # 15
52 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

dobby98 :  I was also going to recommend the Peace Corps.  My dad worked for UNICEF for the majority of his career and he started with the Peace Corps in Afghanistan. That experience was probably the biggest factor that got him hired.  My brother is following his footsteps and about finish his 2 year Peace Corps assignment in Malawi.

If I recall correctly you do need a masters degree to work for UNICEF, but that might have changed.

Because of my dad’s job we got to move all over the world – Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Bolivia to name a few.  If that’s the kind of life you think you’d enjoy then it’s worth considering.  We moved every 2-3 years, and I know for some people that can be exhausting.

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