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Year of Study During Placement: 4th
Faculty and Major: Bachelor of International Economics (BIE)
Placement Course and Year: ECON 492A, 2016
Placement Country: Uganda
Placement Organization: Tekera Resource Centre
Varun participated in the ORICE International Service Learning (ISL) program through the course ECON 492A The Economics of Sustainable Development: Communities, Markets and Technology (now known as ECON 364) and worked with the Tekera Resource Centre. He was in Kitengeesa and Lwannunda, Uganda, and worked with the Lwannunda Village Savings and Loans Association, which was basically a cash round/microfinance group in the village.
How did taking an academic course as a pre-req before you went on placement influence your experience / ability to conduct your main project?
VS: The course with Prof. Catherine Douglas was a great refresher on development economics, as well as engaging ethically/sustainably with a community that might be vulnerable. It made me more aware of the macro-issues that shape everyday interactions.
What did you learn through your ISL experience? What was your biggest challenge?
VS: I learned how to build community anywhere you go. I also developed the ability to find work, so to speak. My placement ended up being something I was passionate about and felt there was genuine space to make a difference, which was not what I was initially assigned. It became a self-guided placement in many ways, which made it all the more rewarding.
How has your participation in ISL influenced your life path, career, and/or academic trajectory?
VS: It’s been a tremendously important experience that’s shaped my passion for public service. I currently work for the Canadian Parliament, and suffice it to say, if it weren’t for ISL, I would have been less inclined to do something that felt like I was genuinely contributing to society and making a difference. Despite this seeming a somewhat cliched banality, ISL really does make that awareness more real and grounded.
What are you up to nowadays?
VS: I work for the Parliamentary Budget Office in Ottawa, basically driving independent, non-partisan analysis for Parliamentarians to raise the quality of debate and inform evidence-based decision making. I still have a strong interest in development wrought through ISL, which I hope to continue to pursue in some upcoming opportunities I have in mind.