Archive for August 4th, 2009
Going into this internship, I had some idea of what to expect, but I do not think anything could have prepared me for the real-life situations and challenges in the field. Field research, in my opinion, is a struggle. Field research involving people is even tougher. There are so many unknowns that it is impossible to anticipate everything. When starting the work, a lot of things seem to go wrong, because figuring out how to be less reliant on plans and more reliant on your resourcefulness comes with a steep learning curve.
There are many things that frustrated and overwhelmed me, mostly at the beginning and end of the internship. At the beginning everything is new and you are learning to roll with the punches, and at the end you are scrambling to finish things up so you can make a smooth exit. The middle bit is where I figured many things out and learned to revert to my laid back mode so I could take things in stride. I remember the first time I sat down with teachers at one of the primary schools we worked with. That moment reminded me of why I decided to embark on this journey in the first place.
I am a scientist and have been into mathematics and science most of my life, but post-college I realized that, although physically applicable sciences were interesting, I really wanted to see how science impacted people’s lives. iSTEP afforded me the opportunity to do just that. I have seen how hypotheses developed in front of a computer in a remote location just do not make sense once you are on site. Ground-level realities are so important to consider if one wants to successfully implement a sustainable project. All in all, I would say iSTEP has given me my first glimpse into what field work is like; its challenges and also its victories. Based on this experience, I have affirmed my desire to be involved in ICTD (Information and Communication Technologies and Development) work.
Beatrice Dias was the Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, based in Dar es Salaam, for iSTEP 2009. Bea is in her 3rd year as a Ph.D. student in the Engineering and Public Policy Department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who volunteers with TechBridgeWorld to assist with marketing, events, fundraising, and strategic planning. She earned her undergraduate degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York with concentrations in Mathematics and Physics. Her current research involves measuring the impact of the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act on Microbiological Research in the U.S. Beatrice is a native of Sri Lanka and hopes to pursue a career in policy evaluation.