So what are you doing this summer? A rickshaw run across Mongolia? Spraying Moet over sun-kissed buttocks in Monaco? Ridding yourself of sins by meditating in a mountain-hidden Nepalese monastery? Possibly, but for most of Oxford’s little dynamos, the curricula vitae are being beefed up with three to ten week corporate whore internships. Whether you’re banking, journo-ing, law-ing, advertising, politicking or accounting, the Fleet Street Mafia and Canary Wharf Glitterati have well and truly contract-bound us.
Great, we all think. We get the dosh, the brownie career points, and the persistent cold from seventeen air-conditioned hours every day; they (the Goldman Sachs, News Internationals, Saatchis and PwCs) get your blood, sweat, tears and twenty-one years’ worth of well-crafted brain for summer (and, they hope, for life). But is that it? Are we simply going to build up CV points, work our ways up the ladder and then retire happily ever after? I’d say three quarters of Oxford’s population are actively socially conscious. More of us than ever are creating sophisticated networks dedicated to social good, preparing for Masters and PhDs in social policy and human rights law and are actively pursuing careers in social enterprises (for-profit businesses whose main aims are for socially benefiting causes).
A prime example of Oxford Social Enterprise is Batiq – where Oxford students get paid to mentor Korean children over internet webcams to encourage cultural exchange and English language usage. Then there’s AIESEC, which co-ordinates community-building work experiences in different countries. Last term the Idea Idol competition held by the Oxford Entrepreneurs gave first prize to a group which assisted the blind with a revolutionary sensory glove and stick. And let’s not forget the whole plethora of fundraising activities which are taking place across Oxford to raise awareness and funds, from the Hands up for Darfur Ball to the RED fashion show. Plans are also underway to build the “Oxford Hub”, a centre for all charities and NGOs to meet, share knowledge and expertise. Oxford is certainly moving in leaps and bounds, all in the spirit of “the golden age of philanthropy.”
Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great to go into the corporate world – a world whose vitality revolves around its aims of efficiency and waste-cutting. Indeed, what better opportunity is there to practise these ideas? But after embellishing our skills portfolio in the City, perhaps we should give something back by sharing our expertise with charities.
Smruti Sriram is Treasurer of the Oxford Union.