Whenever I go home, the typical conversation when I meet people goes something like:
“What are you majoring in?”
“What? Like that class I took in fourth grade?”
Yes, I’m in probably the worst-named concentration at Harvard, but also (in my opinion) the most interesting and flexible. I basically get to take any class in the social sciences and count it towards my concentration. Then, senior year, I write a thesis on a topic of interest after conducting research.
This past week, I just declared my focus field, the selection of classes that define what you choose to focus on within the social sciences. My focus field – “Political Economy, Technology, and the NGO-Government Complex” – looks at how new technologies and NGOs affect development and economic and political outcome in Latin America.
The story of my focus field originates a few thousand miles away in Argentina, where Harvard sent me this summer on a fellowship. Working at a microfinance NGO in La Plata, Argentina, I saw first hand how governments, foreign aid, NGOs, and technology can work together to give citizens new economic opportunities. In between meeting their loan recipients, I worked on implementing a new IT system for the organization as well as experiencing the World Cup (which they take really, really seriously, by the way). But I saw that for almost every client we spoke with form the bank, each was excited about how they wanted to use their profits to bring their children out of poverty through education. I also noticed that many countries like Uruguay were spending on programs like One Laptop per Child while there was still limited data on how this can actually help students come out of poverty despite the dreams of the international community.
What do you get combining a desire to go back again to Latin America on Harvard’s dime; an interest in economics, political science, and computer science; and the flexibility of Social Studies? For me, I got my focus field. I still have a lot to do, but I’m excited about what I’ll be able to find (and experience during my next trip to Latin America!).