This has become an ongoing debate just within my own department within the school of public health. The conversation always goes as such,
“What do you want to do when you graduate?”
“Well, I’m not sure yet?”
“Well do you want to work global or domestic?”
My answer is always both, but its never a satisfactory answer for an advisor, who really doesn’t have time to actually do the job of advising you about what you should do with your class schedule, let alone your career.
But it’s a real hot debate?
- How can you go work for people thousands of miles away when there are people with real issues, who are being neglected, aren’t receiving aid, and don’t fall into groups that are “sexy” (i.e. orphaned children living with HIV in Subsaharan Africa, or starving babies in indigenous communities in the mountains of Peru) that live right down the street. Why don’t you help them???
- It’s your duty to extend the resources you were privileged to receive by spending time abroad and correcting the problems that have resulted in part by the neo-imperialism of the nations that you come from.
And so on. and so forth.
My answer is still both. I don’t think it has to be either, or. And honestly, I think the discussion needs to be reframed. As has been drummed into my head, no one nation’s or community’s issues occur in isolation from another. And this fact remains true across neighborhoods, languages, races, religions, and country borders. I don’t think by working in my city I’m neglecting the global conversation, or if I work in a city in Mozambique that I’m neglecting domestic issues. They’re all connected. They only way you neglect is by remaining ignorant of the complexities. There’s something to be learned at all levels and in all communities across the world, and doing work in one place can serve as a model of what to/what not to do in another place.
Really, I don’t want to write until my fingers fall off. I just want people, instead of guilting other parties about where their loyalties should be in the spectrum of public health work, to educate themselves–beyond the classroom, and the bullshit textbooks, and into subject material that they may not have ever opened because it was seemingly not interesting or isn’t in their “field” (which is alo bullshit because everything is part of your field–nothing happens in isolation!). Global problems are domestic problems and domestic problems are global problems. What you do here actually does affect how someone lives 5,000 miles away. That’s something that I think American students, in particular, need to think about wherever it is they decide to work.