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  • Wrapping Up

    There’s two weeks left until our internship is officially over. The workload for the community partners has slowed and I have entered into a period of reflection while also tying up the last tasks for WHE. This includes the final report, the posters, the training manual, blog posts and reflections. This week I got COVID and have sort of fallen off of the radar in terms of my work and my daily routine. While the time I have taken away from my intern duties to get better has been much needed, I have also found that I miss the flow of my usual work week. I have become so accustomed to waking up early on Mondays and Wednesdays, catching up with Mira, Paul and my fellow interns during weekly meetings, and working through my weekly checklist. It kind of feels like I’m floating right now. The same way that I do when school ends in the spring or when I first moved into my student house. Maybe I just don’t do well with change. Either way, taking a week off has felt both strange and relaxing, though I know I need to get back in the groove to power through the last couple weeks and get done what needs to be done.

    Even beyond this week (where I missed a lesson because I was sick), I have been feeling distanced from ESL Lessons because of all of the connection issues we have been having. There have also been Canadian and Tanzanian holidays that resulted in more cancellations. I look forward to meeting with the girls again August 10th to finish up our final lessons before saying goodbye the following Monday. We are currently working to make sure that our final lessons summarize the work that we have accomplished since beginning in May. This will include going over SMART Goals, reviewing and practicing concepts and leaving them with some helpful resources.

    My work with Paul has also naturally slowed down since the beginning of August as I have finished the August calendars for Mikono Yetu and Mwanza Hospital and I do not have much copywriting to do on the websites. Lately I have been looking forward to starting school again and moving back to London in September where I might get to meet with my fellow interns in person again and meet the incoming interns for the next term. I am excited to share information with others about my experience with the community partners!

    Overall, my experience with WHE has continued to be enjoyable and educational. I know that once my internship is over I will miss seeing the girls every week and being able to explore the company profiles of Paul’s latest clients. For the next couple weeks I hope to complete the internship while managing the long list of deliverables. I plan to use the skills that I have developed since beginning my internship for the home stretch! 

  • Reflecting on ESL

    There are four weeks remaining of my internship with WHE. I know our time together will fly by but we still have so much to do. It feels like only yesterday we started, but now we are talking about wrapping up.

    Currently we are beginning to prepare information and resources for the next interns to come in and continue where we leave off. We are working on a resource guide, which was started by a previous intern, and we are adding all of the information that we think might be useful for facilitating ESL lessons. We are also preparing and writing our final report to summarize our experience thus far. For the next couple weeks we will be balancing these tasks and planning for the last few lessons that we want to teach. We are trying to fit in as much work as we can before we part ways. This makes me realize how important it is to set specific goals, because learning English could go on forever. By communicating with the girls what they want to learn and what they want to be able to do (write an article, have a conversation, learn vocabulary, etc.) we can try and meet those goals through focused and specific lessons. For example, one of the girls wanted to know more about drama so we conducted a drama lesson which reviewed verbs, pronouns, and allowed us to practice reading and comprehension, but also introduced drama-specific vocabulary for those who were interested.

    Title Slide for Lesson 14: Drama and Movies

    While we are on track with our goals, there is so much left that I want to do! It’s good that we get the opportunity to share some of these ideas with future interns or volunteers because it means that they can build off of the foundations that we laid, just as we did with the interns before us. It feels like we will have a lasting impact on the program and on the people that we are working for and with, especially when we know that what we are teaching is useful and will be reviewed and practiced in the future.

    In last week’s blog post, I wrote about the ways that we communicate, but not necessarily what we talk about or the way that these conversations leave me feeling. Sometimes working online can feel very distanced and one of my initial fears doing ESL lessons would be that students would not be engaged. As it turns out, ESL lessons happen to be a fantastic way of connecting with and getting to know the girls. We are often laughing together about certain words that prove to be difficult to understand or pronounce or little errors that one or the other makes, but all in good fun. Allowing ourselves to make mistakes, to laugh when things don’t go as planned is exactly what makes being an ESL lesson facilitator so rewarding. We spend a lot of time trying to get to know the girls a little bit better through open ended questions, for example, about their goals, their age & birthdays, their favourite hobbies or movies, or what they did on the weekend. We find ways to connect with one another despite being far away. When we all went around and shared our birthdays, we found that one of the students and I share a birthday, which she was really excited about. At the end of the lessons, the girls wave us off and say thank you and goodbye and we leave, thanking them for attending and for participating. I leave the lessons and always feel good (as lessons are usually done by 8am, I find that it’s a great way to start the day).

    As I anticipate the end of the internship and begin to summarize my experience, I know that I will greatly miss meeting with the girls every week and running the ESL lessons.

  • Communication From 12 000+ km Away

    These past couple weeks have been gone by fast but have been slower in terms of work. This is due to Internet connection issues and the Canada Day long weekend. In spite of this, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what communication looks like as a remote intern and how I connect with my team at Western and beyond.

    As a remote intern, I do not stray too far from my computer. All of my work with NyayoZangu and tasks related to digital presence management take place online. The ESL lessons are taught via Zoom and most of my meetings are either through Google Meets or Zoom as well. As a student throughout the years that COVID has been a part of our lives, I am no stranger to long days working online, or communicating through Zoom. I have also been a remote intern before, so I am familiar with inevitable tech and internet issues. However, I also run into unexpected obstacles in my various intern roles, and that is all part of the learning process.

    So what does communication from 12000+ km away look like? WhatsApp has been the main outlet for communication between both of my community partners. I didn’t have the app when I first started, but downloaded it right away and set up an account easily with just my phone number. This is where I access the ESL group chat. WhatsApp is a great communication outlet because you can send other content, such as photos, back and forth as well (and there is no cost like there might be with certain carriers). My ESL teaching partner and I plan our meetings through WhatsApp and I send her photos from the physical textbooks which we are using to plan lessons. The ESL lessons themselves take place over Zoom, but we receive their homework (in photos) though WhatsApp. The girls are all sitting in the classroom and join the call via one laptop (which is connected to a monitor or a projector) that is at the front of the space. Sometimes it is difficult to hear the girls so they pass the laptop around when speaking. This week, the power was out in Mwanza so we cancelled our Monday lesson. On Wednesday the power was on, but the internet connection was poor so we ended about 10 minutes early and will continue with the lesson this coming Monday.

    With my community partner at NyayoZangu, I mostly communicate through Asana’s inbox, although for more individual tasks or specific questions, I reach out through WhatsApp. The inbox on Asana can be somewhat confusing, but once I was familiar with it I found it really useful being able to tag specific people and reference specific tasks in my messages. I have turned on notifications for Asana on my phone (where I downloaded the app) and on my laptop so I know when to check the site. I also meet with my community partner for our weekly meeting through Google Meets, and often schedule these meetings using Calendly.

    Meeting with my fellow interns every week is a great opportunity to catch up and hear about what issues and successes they have been having. These meetings take place over Zoom, mostly because we are all in different places. We are not all remote, and since it is summer, many people that are remote are no longer in London. There is a group forum on Microsoft Teams but it is not often used by interns to talk to one another. Generally we receive updates on email.

    Overall, the communication is not that difficult to maintain and is not so different than how we communicate normally. Today, July 8th, has been particularly strange because Rogers was out Canada wide so many people (myself included) did not have access to internet (wifi), data, texting, or calling. This not only cut off communication between community partners and interns, but also just changed the way I went about my day. There was very little work I could do without these tools that we have become so accustomed to.

    To end today’s post, I thought it might be useful to share some tips and tricks that have been useful to me while navigating communication and well-being during my internship.

    Tips and Tricks:

    • Be mindful of the time difference between community partners and other WHE interns. Don’t expect messages back quickly, especially if you are sending them at 3am their time. This leads to the next one:
    • Don’t leave tasks until the last minute. Because of the time zone, your community partner may already be a day ahead of you.
    • To avoid screen headaches (which I sometimes get from staring at my computer), I use blue light filters or ‘night light’. I have a pair of glasses that I sometimes use as well which have a blue light filter.
    • I always check my email, WhatsApp, and Asana in the morning so I can see if there’s anything urgent that I need to do before the workday is over in Tanzania.
    • Don’t be afraid to clarify when/if something is not clear.
    • Join meetings early. Sometimes I reach out to the person that I am meeting with a couple minutes before just to make sure that we are still good to go. This is especially helpful for meetings that were scheduled in advance.
    • I find it helpful to set deadlines for tasks, even if they are not a top priority. Deciding on a deadline with the community partner also helps you to understand what their expectations are.
    • Find a sleep schedule that works for your internship. If you are not used to waking up early, try and get in the habit so you feel awake and prepared when you need to teach at 7am.

  • Finding the Words

    Summer is my favourite season. For me, it has always been a break from the rush of the school year and it allows me to engage in my hobbies and spend time with friends and family.

    This week marks the official start of summer! I have been enjoying the sunshine and working in the garden. I have also met with some of friends from home who are attending various universities across Canada. As always, the same questions come up: What are you studying again? What do you want to do after school? What are you doing for the summer? I find that I struggle to answer a lot of those questions, not because I don’t have answers to them, but because interdisciplinary education and experiences are difficult to define.

    Since my first year in the SASAH program I have felt like I could never do justice to it by defining it so I would always get into the rambling details of my favourite classes and some of the skills that I was gaining through them. It is the same for my second major in Geography: environment and health. People, first of all, assume that as a geographer I must be making/studying maps, and second, wonder what I will be able to use it for. They do not understand how broad and multifaceted the subject really is.

    My attraction to interdisciplinarity stems from my own abstract interests which have never led me to label myself as just an artist, just a gardener, just a reader just an environmentalist and so on. To the question “what do you want to do after school?” I always share a plan, not a final destination, simply because I feel that my work will never done, or that there will always something else to explore, whether that is starting a business, going into environmental law or consulting, becoming an artist, a writer, a yoga teacher… It really doesn’t end. This is part of the reason why I have found my time with Western Heads East to be so engaging.

    With WHE, I have the opportunity to work with two community partners and on a multitude of different projects. I could say that I am just an intern, but that doesn’t begin to cover what I am doing. I am planning and conducting ESL lessons, creating specific content for organizations, copywriting for websites (from recruitment agencies to construction companies to hotels) as well as learning the ins and outs of a social media management business which includes writing blogs and creating courses for NyaoZangu’s site called Learn.

    This week I have been doing some job searching as I try and figure out whether I am applying to grad school this fall or whether I can find a job right after my undergrad. I stumbled upon a job that I really think would be a good fit. To my surprise, the very first requirement for the position is experience working with social media management: something which I had never done before working with NyayoZangu. Finding this posting made me reflect on all of the skills that I have gained in the past five (almost six) weeks, and how helpful those skills will be in the future. I realized that I am in the process of refining my skills in problem-solving, creativity, communication, and teamwork continuously since beginning with WHE.

    I look forward to the second half of my internship and the multitude of interdisciplinary skills that I will gain through ESL lessons, and whatever NyayoZangu brings. Definitions can come second.

  • Falling into the Groove

    This marks the end of my fourth week working with Western Heads East’s community partners in Mwanza, Tanzania. I have fallen into the groove of work, like a needle on a record, and have gotten used to each week moving in a circular and familiar motion, bringing me closer to the center: the culmination of my time in this internship. Already, my advisor at NyayoZangu is envisioning the work that we will be able to accomplish by mid-August and seems to be satisfied with my work thus far.

    The rhythm and schedule of my week is something which I have finally figured out. It is a cycle of meetings, prep work, lessons, content creation, and copywriting, which then starts again, keeping me busy, but also satisfied. I have found a good balance between working with Msichana Tai and with NyayoZangu and the schedule that I am working on means that I can accomplish everything that needs to be done in a week, and still have time outside of that. With Msichana Tai, Mira and I are still working on creating a lesson plan for the next couple weeks/months, and getting feedback from the girls but the lessons have been overall successful and I enjoy facilitating them. I set goals before this internship began, but each time that I work with the girls I get more excited about meeting their goals too. For example, I feel excited that our lessons are helping bring some of them one step closer to writing a book. This does not mean that I am not also learning a lot throughout the process. After each lesson I think of what I could have done differently to improve for the next time, which includes thinking of new and creative ways to teach and practice certain concepts, as well as how to introduce and present them. I am working to refine my communication skills, and to improve my planning and organization.

    The work that I have been doing with NyayoZangu has also been extremely educational. I feel like I am gaining so many valuable skills by working with their team. Coming into this position, I really didn’t even know what a copywriter did, but now I am working on website drafts for real clients in the real world. It is a refreshing experience after being in school for so long and itching to see what ‘the real world’ is like, but here I am, working alongside people who do this work (and much more) for a living. I find the rhythm of writing content to be enjoyable, and it makes me think that I could see myself doing this in the future.

    In my last post, I mentioned working with Asana (Fig.1), which is a platform meant to help organize team projects and workload. At first it was daunting, but now I find it really helpful. This is the hub of my NyayoZangu work, and I use it to navigate to other sites that we are working on and to create the content calendar for Mikono Yetu (Fig.2). I think having figured out how to use Asana has also made everything else seem more organized and less stressful.

    Figure 1
    Figure 2

    I look forward to sharing more content here as I steamroll ahead into week 5!

  • Getting Started

    Welcome to my very first blog post, at the start of what will be a 3-month-long internship with Western Heads East (WHE) and their partners, Mikono Yetu, Msichana Tai, and NyayoZangu. Since my work with them began on May 16th, it has been a whirlwind of introductions to peers, mentors, and students and I find myself shocked that it has nearly been two weeks already! 

    My experience so far has been… unexpected, and not in a bad way. I was nervous while reading blog posts from previous WHE interns because many of them highlighted issues associated with the time difference, internet connection, and language barriers. Thus far, I have found that the time difference is not a big deal for me because I am a morning person, usually up around 8am, and therefore can contact my community partners while they are still in the early afternoon. As for the internet connection, most of my work so far has been with NyayoZangu, and I connect with those partners via Asana and Whatsapp which is great because the line of communication is open regardless of time zone. Asana is a work management platform designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work, and is what NyayoZangu uses to assign tasks. I have familiarized myself with the platform and get notifications when I have been tagged in a project or have been assigned a task. I can also use it to directly message team members. Between Asana and Whatsapp I have a lot of messages, especially in the morning (because they are almost a work day ahead of me by then), which can sometimes feel daunting, even if the tasks themselves are relatively easy. I find the need to organize my time better, something which will come in the next couple weeks as I orient myself with each project, set more specific goals and make a timeline. While most of my communication with NyayoZangu is happening via Asana or Whatsapp, we still have weekly Google Meets meetings and I have not encountered any connection issues thus far. 

    The work that I am doing there ties into my work with Msichana Tai and Mikono Yetu nicely. I have been doing copywriting which involves me going over the written portion of websites and editing for grammar and flow. I have done research and worked on the content calendar. This entails coming up with ideas for instagram and facebook for Mikono Yetu and Msichana Tai which also helps me get to know the organizations better. These posts address topics which reflect the organizations’ goals: economic empowerment, reproductive health education, promotion of activities such as English as a second language lessons and community events. 

    While writing content for posts for World Infertility awareness month (June) I reflected on the ways that western society addresses this issue in comparison to how Tanzanian society does. I was unsure of the social norms in Tanzanian culture surrounding this topic and was concerned about staying true to the message that needed to be relayed. I made sure to check in with the community partner to ask “is this acceptable? Is it too detailed? Or not enough?”

    As I said, these past weeks I have worked most closely with NyayoZangu, but I still had the opportunity to work with Mira to conduct our first ESL lesson to the Eagles Girls group. This went well except that only two students showed up because it was raining a lot there. It gave Mira and I a chance to get comfortable with what to expect from these lessons. We also got to meet with Rehema, who was really helpful facilitating conversations with the girls.

    Overall it was a great first couple weeks and I look forward to working more with the community partners!