J-Term Practica, 2016
An Invaluable Experience
March 17, 2016
In the past, I have worked in various developing countries, some which suffered significantly more in both capital and resources than Nepal. The roads were worse, the people were poorer, and the access to goods, food, in particular, was much more difficult. I thought I had seen some of the most difficult places to work. I knew it wasn’t entirely true, but I liked to think, that I wouldn’t see much that was new. I went to Nepal hoping South Asia would prove me wrong and I was not disappointed. The geographic challenges as well as the magnitude of destruction by the earthquake was constantly apparent and demonstrated to me the enormity of the challenges Nepalis face on a day to day basis as well as how difficult it must have been for government and international organizations to deliver services and aid efficiently.
Not only was this experience important to me personally, but professionally as well. The tools that we learned in the Field Methods course were essential to properly execute the project and without that course, it would have been difficult to implement the survey properly. However, the theoretical learning meant very little without seeing how it was executed in the field. Repeatedly I found my peers and myself making mistakes that we had sworn we would
never do back in the classroom in Monterey. Without being on the ground and experiencing both the professional and the human element of the activities we were trying to implement, it was impossible to eliminate instincts that would result in skewed or compromised data. There were some students that did not go to Nepal with us, and I am finding that as we are cleaning the data and interpreting the results, that the questions they ask need a plethora of context
from the time we actually recorded the information. What this demonstrates, is that if we had not actually spent the time on the ground, the data we had recorded would undoubtedly have been misinterpreted.
The experience of going through the whole process of developing a survey, personally having the opportunity to implement it in the field, and now to be able to analyze it is invaluable. I strongly believe that programs such as these, in particular, the practical and experiential elements should be replicated within other programs at MIIS. It is very little in class learning that can properly replace on the ground, hands-on learning that allows the student to make mistakes, learn from them, and adapt. These experiences are what make
professionals more successful in the future.