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  • 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. I’ll work on my defining later…

  • 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!