David Isaak

International master in development and management (LUMID), Lund University

‘There is an egalitarianism of ideas that is unique to the Swedish educational system. It never felt like one theory or approach was ‘better’ than another.’

What drew you to studying in Sweden?

I grew up in the central US, in a small town with strong college ties to Linköping University.  People in my community were generally quite intrigued by Swedish society and culture by living amongst a few Swedish exchange students each semester. After high school, I went on to study international relations at a university in Oklahoma where I discovered that I could study abroad in Sweden myself.  So, I spent year two of my bachelor’s studies at Lund University.  I liked it so much that I applied for a master’s at Lund after finishing my undergraduate degree.

Tell us a bit about your programme. What did you study and what did you enjoy about the academics?

What really drew me to the LUMID programme was the well-balanced theoretical and managerial education related to international development. International development is one of those fields that straddles practical and academic disciplines and the programme is structured in a way that allows students to engage in real, in-depth field research and practice during the second year of the programme.

LUMID was composed of students from all walks of life and from every part of the globe. While the course work and assignments were challenging, I learned nearly as much outside of class from my classmates and friends – hearing about their life experience, their passionate opinions on global development topics, and often heartbreaking stories of challenges. It was really the challenges to equitable human development that drove us all to the LUMID programme, looking for the tools and knowledge to develop approaches and theories to help people live safer, more enjoyable lives full of opportunity.

How did studying in Sweden compare to being a student in your home country?

While there are many similarities between US and Swedish educational approach, one general difference was a greater emphasis on group work. This method of learning and approaching assignments was new and required skills in negotiating and defending ideas, finding compromise, and being okay with an academic text that was an amalgam of several ideas. I do think that in many cases writing together is a longer process than writing individually; however, the product of a group assignment is almost always more interesting and higher quality. We all brought so much experiential knowledge that working together with one another was really just an extension of the classroom.

How was student life in Lund? Do you have any particular memories that stand out?

Lund is full of whimsy and bikes! The most memorable time of the year is the fall when thousands of new or returning students fill up the streets of Lund with so much expectation, anxiety and youthful new ideas. It is a place that seems to really be awakened in the fall and from that energy and excitement stays bright throughout the long winter months.

What are you doing now, and how have your studies in Sweden helped you in your career?

I am now a Senior Policy Advisor and Foreign Service officer for the United States International Development Agency. The breadth of knowledge gained in the LUMID programme has helped me be adaptable and contribute to a variety of policy analysis on cross cutting issues such as climate smart agriculture, gender and sexuality, nutrition and disaster risk reduction. And, the management component of the course was critical in helping me plan and execute development projects while working in the field.

Why do you think others should choose to study in Sweden?

There is an egalitarianism of ideas that is unique to the Swedish educational system.  It never felt like one theory was ‘better’ than another or one academic, culture, approach or language was superior.  To me, Lund truly was a place to explore ideas and test hypotheses, objectively and open-mindedly. And my classmates were students from all walks of life and from every part of the globe.


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