Let me go ahead and apologize profusely for not updating in a month. I know I have been letting you all down, but here is a post finally!
The main reason for not updating in so long is that nothing exceptionally exciting has happened in a while. The month has gone by pretty quickly I would say. I have heard before that there are stages to a study abroad experience: the initial shock, the honeymoon stage and then acculturation. I summarized that a bit but I am sure I have established my point more or less. I take this last stage, acculturation, to have potential to either be really good, really bad, a mix of the two or just downright bland. I have surpassed the halfway point in my stay in Rwanda and I would say that the honeymoon is definitely over. For me the acculturation period is pretty bland with some sprinkles of really good and somewhat bad. The really good definitely outweighs the bad and occurs more frequently though. I know, it does not sound very appealing but it is what it is.
Classes are over but we still have to write papers for them. Something I am not really a fan of. I do not mind writing papers at all. I am very much used to cranking out a couple big ones a week back at Southwestern University. However, what I do not enjoy is having to write a 15 page essay over a month after classes for a particular course has ended. Especially when the classes for said course were less than informative, mostly yielding no information that either was not already known or that could have been read on a Wikipedia page or similar web source. I honestly cannot remember if I have ranted about our program or not yet so here goes. Before I tear the program a new one though I will point out that this is the first time that the SIT Hendrix program has ever existed. Although the regular SIT Rwanda program has been around for a while and is pretty well established. The programs are different in structure, content and length. I’ll elaborate because I know you are just dying to know the differences in more detail.
– 5 months long
– 2 months of liberal artsy classes (History, Culture and Arts, Ecology and Sustainable Development, Microfinance and Poverty Reduction and Field Methods/Kinyarwanda)
– 4 month long homestay
– 3 month long internship
– Roughly 3.5 months long
– 2.5ish months of classes focused on post-genocide reconstruction and reconciliation (National and Ethnic Identity, Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding, Research Methods and Ethics and Kinyarwanda)
– 2.5ish month long homestay
– 1 month long independent research project
In both of the programs the different courses have their own academic coordinator or “administrator and grader of papers” but individual classes are all or mostly taught by different people. From reading about the program prior to coming to Rwanda, the prospect of having a variety of professors, area experts and members of relative government organizations and NGOs was wonderful. Unfortunately, the actualization of this was not so wonderful. While many of these people might have indeed had the above-mentioned qualifications, very few of them were clued into what we already knew or knew how to present a lecture to students. I am also very skeptical of how much the lecturers knew about our program and if they were even told a basic outline of the topics that should have been covered in each course let alone what information their specific class should have provided us with.
Having such, lets face it, rather awfully uninformative classes does not really prepare one to write any sort of lengthy paper. This is compounded when the academic coordinator for a given class is probably unaware of what we should have been taught and what little information we actually received. Add to this the fact that we never got any readings for our courses (except when we went to Uganda for our Microfinance class) and it really doesn’t motivate you to write anything of quality. Paper assignments are given way after courses end with rather open prompts but the grader usually has a very specific answer to their question that they are looking for. This especially complicates writing an essay that is supposed to be personal and reflect individual feelings, reflections and interpretations of activities.
More than a month after most of our classes have ended we have only turned in three papers: a small one for both our history and ecology classes and a large, final one for our history class. We were told that each of our three courses would have 2 papers, a shorter one and a longer 15-20 page one (as well as our final internship paper). I really do not see us ever getting these assignments let alone writing the papers. Not having class for so long in addition to no readings to reference and working over forty hours a week are not exactly ideal circumstances under which to write such long papers. Finally, why would I want to waste my time writing papers that I do not feel anyone really cares about or benefit me in any way when I could actually be experiencing Rwanda.
Oh and the reason for the comparison between programs earlier was to point out that their lectures have been much more beneficial, they have received readings for their courses and have actually gotten to visit governmental organizations and NGOs. We should have gone on similar excursions in order to make it easier to establish connections for our internship. For whatever reason that is lost on me, we did not use the same connections that this group did. I still do not understand why we did not use so many of the same lecturers and excursion contacts that had been established for years.
Okay, I think I have complained enough now. As you might have guessed I recently spent quite a few of my nights writing a long essay under these circumstances.
I’ve been working at my internship full time now, Monday thru Saturday. Some of the days are pretty long too. I would say that I enjoy it for the most part. That sounds pretty negative but unfortunately it is true. The best way I know to explain it is to say that I love the prospects of what I can do and the possibilities associated with my internship as well as what I envisioned myself doing. However, actualizing these ideas is not quite playing out in the ideal fashion that they could. I have yet to visit any part of the company and its operations other than my office. Although I did visit a rather rinky-dink international trade show (of course I am comparing this to exhibitions and conventions I have attended in America and did not exactly expect more from it) here in Kigali the other week. We did not exhibit anything at it. I simply accompanied my boss there while he met with the organizer of the event. I walked around and checked things out; there might have been 20 or so booths in total. The exhibitors were all from East Africa and the Middle East and marketing clothes, furniture, make up, a few household items and some other unrelated products.
The point is I sit at a desk in front of my computer for at least eight hours a day and it is rather mind numbing. Not to mention the fact that I could be doing exactly the same thing in America, just not in the coffee exporting industry. About 50% of the time I have no direction in what I am supposed to be working on so I just browse around on Alibaba and make databases of people we have contacted by flipping through page after page of sent boxes on email accounts.
I have made some company publications that I am quite pleased with though. In the past weeks I made a catalogue, an informational packet about the company and wrote a 25-page marketing plan complete with beautiful graphs and charts. The downside to these is that I really do not feel like they are appreciated that much. The company has no publications of this type and they really look nice. Yet when anyone (I guess only 2 people have seen them) looks at them they just say things like “its very structured” or “it will work”. Maybe it is a cultural thing but at least I like them and know they are better than what they had before…which was nothing. I have not yet shown my marketing plan to anyone. I am waiting on some financials. I still think it is interesting that I have no idea about most of where and to whom we already sell. I made a very detailed list of all the information I need to know if they want my plan to actually have any value to it. I know this is the only way I will find out what I need to know. I am also trying to get a couple American supermarkets to buy into our coffee and sell in the in US (special thanks to my mom for the help).
Things are not quite as bad as this post might make them seem. I just needed to vent to world a little bit. I will post a happier one about the good things that have happened for all to read shortly.
Also, if you have ever clicked on my map and was annoyed that it still said I was in the Kigali Airport you should be pleased to know that I finally updated that. ☺