Monday, September 28, 2009

Update: BU English Alum Nate Horst

After graduating from Belmont in May 2003, I accepted an invitation to serve in Mali with the Peace Corps. I spent two years in a small village of 500 learning languages, building relationships, and attempting development projects for which I had little qualification to undertake. With the help and support of a very organized and motivated village, I managed to build a school, install a potable water pump, erect an agricultural storage facility, conduct maternity and infant health classes, and start a small tree nursery business.

One sentence makes it sound so smooth. It wasn’t. I stumbled and blundered my way to results that, in my opinion, were mostly positive. Development work is a complicated matter. There are consequences to consider, incentives to interpret, and politics to circumvent. But from the dizzying complexity comes a fundamental picture of heartbreaking absurdity and a profound sense that things do not have to be this way. For me, that sense became a motivating mantra. Things must not be this way.

After working for two years in the non-profit sector, I applied to graduate school to study international economics, finance and development. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Johns Hopkins University School Advanced of International Studies in Washington, D.C. My focus has turned towards the potential of micro finance schemes to increase the access of the poor to basic financial services, a lack of which has proven to be a major obstacle to economic development.

I consider myself fortunate to have lived in a place like Mali, and to have experienced what life can feel like without the white noise of advertisements and instant information. But I also consider myself fortunate to have profited from so many advantages, a Belmont education being paramount. My training as an English major prepared me well for my coming career by teaching me how to communicate clearly, think creatively, and consider every possibility when searching for answers to complicated problems. I continue to take the lessons of those four years with me, in work and in life.

(a version of this story first appeared in the English Department Newsletter )