Archive for August 10th, 2009
From the first day of the iSTEP mini course until now, my experience as an intern on the iSTEP team has been an enlightening and powerful one. As a student with many ethnographic layers — my Nigerian heritage, British background, and American experience, as well as my prior work experience in other parts of Africa — I thought that my prior experiences would serve as a major advantage for me.
Before leaving, I was as prepared as I was going to get. I had the same feeling that I get before I run a 100 meter dash — whether or not I feel 100% that day, I know that I have been racing for years and that I have been working on my technique. And when the gun goes off, I use all I know to get me through the race. In my book of life challenges, I would liken the iSTEP internship to an 800 meter dash, a race and adventure that I hadn’t been coached for, but definitely knew I was capable of accomplishing. This internship challenged me in a new way, and required me to enhance the skills that I already had in order to excel in the role that I had been assigned.
Seldom does one find an internship experience that allows students to conduct research and find their own solutions to problems that are impacting developing communities in the world. Upon my arrival in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I was a bit intimidated by the goals that I had set for myself. I knew I wanted to explore the country, meet new people, and embrace the new culture but I was also aware that I had a lot of work to do. I also did not have much experience in needs assessment, so I wanted to make sure I was focused from the time we arrived. The timeline I had originally created for myself changed as we started talking with the communities. I realized very quickly that I needed to be more open to plans changing and not being able to predict my work timeline.
As the weeks passed, I became comfortable with my surroundings, familiar with the community members, and proactive with my work. I knew how to engage with the different communities, record data, and share it with the rest of the team. Nothing was spoon-fed to me. It was all about experiential learning and a full commitment to the success of the project in the community.
I am going to walk away from this summer with a wealth of knowledge and understanding about the realities of ICTD, and the challenges facing the developing world. Africa is my homeland and the opportunity to travel and experience the cultures in Tanzania, and take a look at social justice and political issues that I really care about is something that I will always be grateful for. I cherish the experience that I have received this summer which has provided me with practical exposure outside of the classroom, outside my own ambit and back to the origin of life and commerce. I know this is just the beginning of my work in Africa, but it has created a strong foundation for me to be able to contribute to the development of my people.
Rotimi Abimbola was the team’s Needs Assessment and Evaluation Coordinator, based in Dar es Salaam, for the iSTEP 2009 internship. She is a rising senior at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. She is pursuing two majors, Political Science and International Relations, as well as a minor in African Studies. Rotimi is determined to pursue a career with a focus on politics and governance in Africa. She was born in London, England, but grew up in Nigeria in West Africa. At Carnegie Mellon, Rotimi has been elected as the Student Body President for the upcoming academic year. She has also held several other leadership positions, including Chair of the Undergraduate Student Senate, Resident Assistant, Varsity Track and Field Athlete, and founding member of the African Student Organization.