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International Youth Day: 5 courses you can study to make real change

Updated on: Nov 1, 2023
International Youth Day: 5 courses you can study to make real change
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Each year, the United Nations celebrates the positive ways in which young people contribute to the world around them in the form of International Youth Day.

The focus of this year’s International Youth Day is youth engagement, with the UN hoping to highlight the ways in which young people’s involvement in local, national, and global institutions and processes helps make real, positive change in the world.

As a young person engaged in making change at any level, trying to figure out how your passion can translate into your studies can be challenging. You might think that sitting in a lecture hall and writing essays has little relevance to the outside world, but there are many courses that will allow you to take the interests you already have and turn them into practical and analytical skills that will help you continue to improve the world around you.

Here are five examples...

Political Science (Politics)

This one spans the local, national, and global, as a degree in politics could help you with engagement on any scale. Political Science graduates have the skills to think critically, conduct research, and communicate effectively, as well as an understanding of the main political ideologies and schools of thought. 

Political Science is also often combined with other majors such as History, International Relations, and Economics. In the UK, PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) is known as a popular degree choice for future politicians, with former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Edward Heath both graduating from The University of Oxford with a degree in the subject.  

But just how engaged with the world around you does a Politics degree keep you? Well, the proof is in the graduates. Among those who studied Political Science are former US president Barack Obama, BBC journalist George Alagiah, and former Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson.

The skills gained in a Politics degree are incredibly highly valued and transferable to a wide range of careers.

Political Science graduates often go on to work in journalism, business, and finance —  all occupations that keep you engaged and curious about the world around you. 

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Much like Political Science, a degree in Law can take you in many directions and can give you the practical skills to apply your engagement and passion on a local, national, or global level. 

Most obviously, pursuing a degree in Law opens up the possibility of becoming a lawyer - although gaining a law degree does not necessarily qualify you as a lawyer. 

A career in law could see you drafting or advising on legislation, arguing in court, or perhaps providing legal advice to those who need it the most. 

However, if you think law school is just for lawyers, think again — like most humanities and social science degrees, law provides you with skills that can be transferred to almost any workplace. 

Plenty of politicians also studied and perhaps even worked in law before changing career paths — examples you’ll probably know are Hillary Clinton and Nelson Mandela.


Engineering might not be the first degree you think of when it comes to changing the world, but engineers are key to building a more sustainable and eco-friendly society. 

All three of the major degree strands of engineering — Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering — will give you the skills and knowledge you need to get to work creating sustainable and innovative solutions.

You can even specialise as an environmental engineer, putting solving the planet’s problems in a practical way at the forefront of your responsibilities!

Studying engineering could set you on the path towards making structural changes to help save the planet. As an Engineering graduate you could help with community projects, or work with governments and companies to help them design more sustainable infrastructure, public health systems, and buildings. 


A degree in Geography will teach you about environmental change, ecosystems, globalisation, sustainable development and natural resource management — all things that can be applied to help you engage with and improve the world around you!

Your degree will give you the opportunity to conduct fieldwork and real experiments, carry out your own research, and communicate your findings effectively in essays and reports.

Graduates from Geography degrees go on to work in international aid and development, town and transport planning, conservation, and geoscience, to name a few.

You could work on local projects such as town planning, or use your skills more globally to coordinate disaster responses and aid projects. 

But again, like many degrees, Geography teaches you many transferable skills that can help you go into a wide variety of careers. Former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May took her degree in Geography into a career in politics, so remember, there are plenty of avenues open to you!

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Global Humanitarian Studies

Here’s a degree that truly fits into the ‘global’ stream of the UN’s International Youth Day theme. 

Global Humanitarian Studies is the study of humanitarian crises. You’ll learn about the historical and political context of these crises, as well as the global response and impact of this. 

As a graduate of this degree, you’ll be equipped to truly make a difference by working in areas such as international aid, or crisis response. You could work in government helping shape policy, or for a charity giving people hands-on help. 

Degree programmes like this one are often linked to research institutes too, giving students the opportunity to work alongside staff and lecturers on truly current projects.

Like all the degrees on this list, Global Humanitarian Studies doesn’t limit you to humanitarian careers. The critical and research skills gained in this degree also prepare you for a huge variety of career paths, from data analysis to digital marketing!

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