This post is an edited excerpt of the journal I kept when I was in Senegal.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been back and I am not sure if this entry will be as genuine as it would have been had I written it as soon as I came back. Service abroad presents its challenges. I was lucky not to encounter many of them since I went in a country where I knew how to speak the language (the official one), and I looked like one of the locals.
The toughest challenge is to get over that initial hurdle, those first weeks. After those, I believe that if you are focused you will accomplish what you set out to do. You will feel all ranges of emotions and experience all kinds of learning that are usually unreachable in a busy society because of fear and stress.
Service abroad is rewarding. To me, the experience of working with children was special as I never had the chance to take care of a younger sibling (being the youngest is not necessarily all perks). I was able to serve children and frankly, it is something that I didn’t know I had in me. This service experience was a reminder that individualism is not the best course of action in most cases. The selfless aspect of service helps me today put all my action in perspective. This experience also forced me to reconsider my goals, and to refine what were once ambitious statements into a lifelong pursuits.
Getting out of my comfort zone and being immersed in the environment I wanted to learn about was the best way to accelerate my learning. I have learned more about development in 8 weeks than I would have in year. Reading + Seeing + Thinking in context, in the environment put me at another level of learning. Full immersion in your area of study, I believe in necessary to achieve mastery, however before you achieve that level you learn a lot just by being partially immersed. If was given a chance to do it again, I would do so in a heartbeat.
I will post more excerpts from my journal. This is the first post of many. Stay tuned.