Friday, March 11, 2011

Pre-Fellowship Expectations

I think that the fact that I'm studying abroad in Paris and completely removed from my normal academic and real life has meant that the fact that I'm spending this summer in Togo with Nest hasn't exactly hit me yet.  When I booked my flights it became so much more real, but at this point it's still a experience that I'm putting off thinking about just because I'm trying to make the most of my time in Europe.  I think being away from my family and friends, living in a home stay program, dealing with the French language barrier has really prepared me for this summer.  I understand that I will be going from a first to a third world country and thus the two experiences will be fundamentally different; and at this moment I can't even begin to comprehend the realities of my future situation, hopefully I will be prepared to deal with some of the adjustment issues such as being away from home in an unfamiliar environment where they don't speak my first language.  But my French gets better every day and hopefully by this summer I will be perfectly fluent, I'm almost there right now!
     What I'm most freaked out about right now is the fact that I get home on May 28th from Paris and I have to leave on June 15th, so I have two weeks to deal with all of my immunizations, get my Visa, pack, visit family and friends, and it's just going to be such a whirlwind.  But I think once I get there and am over the initial shock of my new surroundings, because I know the culture shock is inevitable, especially when the change is so drastic, I will be so happy to be there.  I don't really know what to expect about the fieldsite at all, all I know is what I've learned through working with the Nest through the past year and that can be broken down into the women's stories, basic information about the Akala Collective, pictures of Chantal and Etoname, and other surface knowledge.  That's probably one of the scariest aspects for me, is going in not really knowing what to expect.  I haven't yet grasped the details of what I will be doing for two months, I know what I would like to be doing: working on product development with the women to make them more likely to succeed in increasingly competitive US markets, to teach our business curriculum, to work on monitoring and evaluations, and to feel like I/Nest am making a difference in these women's lives. 
    Also I'm sure like everyone else I'm worried about fundraising, luckily I applied and won a $3000 grant from the UC Berkeley Richard Blum Center for Developing Economies through my Global Poverty and Practice minor but that is still not enough and because I am in Paris, my fundraising options are significantly limited.  But I know that when I get back I'm going to host many Nest events at school to increase awareness and recruit volunteers with Dr. Khalid Kadir so maybe I can figure out some way to pay back my parents through one of them.
          That's it for now! I'm off to Prague, Czech Republic for the weekend! Czech me out :)

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