Monday, November 4, 2013

Finishing My (Formal) Education

Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that I am currently working on my Master's degree. It was easy to understand as I went to and from class every day in Brattleboro, but being in Mexico changes how my education works. And it is really hard. Seriously. Doing my work for Natik, and then going to work on finishing my Master's is a lot more work than I anticipated. Sometimes I get to the end of the day and I have no idea where my time was spent - and I feel as though I have nothing to show for it. But I know I am making slow progress, and working in a new culture has definitely taught me a lot about patience. 

So since I am feeling a little bogged down with all the homework I know I must do, I decided to procrastinate just a little bit more and write a little about what I studied, and what I am really doing here in Mexico. After all, this is the question I am continually answering from everyone, friends, family, and even complete strangers.

I went to school at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. The actual name of my degree is Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management. But usually I just tell people that I studied sustainable development. It makes the explanation a bit easier. Basically what I focused my studies on was sustainable project design and monitoring and evaluation. What are sustainable projects? Well a simple term to use would be humanitarian projects. I feel that most people understand that terminology. But I like to explain it a little differently. In my work, I try to work with natives to develop solutions to their existing problems. For instance, Natik works with a pair of women who have started a Saturday remedial education program. This was started because they saw a need in the community, and decided to try and fill that need. My work is to help those communities develop solutions to their needs that are both culturally sensitive and sustainable. I am focusing my work here in Mexico on monitoring and evaluation (or M&E). 

M&E is basically the way a project is tracked, monitored, measured, and evaluated. A lot of people look at M&E people as the nerds of the NGO world, but I actually find it fascinating to see the progress of the projects. Maybe that does make me a nerd, but I am totally ok with that. 
My M&E class at SIT.
As part of my RPP (reflective practice phase) I have to write a few papers and work toward developing an M&E plan for Natik's projects. I actually love doing the M&E work, and I find it both challenging and rewarding. Doing the schoolwork has not proved to be rewarding, but rather challenging to begin. But I have the goal of graduating in May, so I'm pushing myself to complete everything I need to by the deadlines. 

A group of SLM students (service, leadership, and management majors).
But even though I find the schoolwork that I'm doing now a bit challenging, I actually really loved my time on campus. I had such a great cohort of students, and the classes I took really gave me a lot of knowledge and understanding that I've been able to apply here in Mexico. It is weird to say that I kind of miss it in Vermont, but at the same time, I am grateful to be one step closer to finishing my degree and really starting my career. Only 7 more months and I will be finished. Hard to believe time has flown by so quickly. 
Youth leadership class tower building. We used a lot of markers and crafty items in my school.

1 comment:

  1. I love the new layout! And all the adventures! I am glad that you guys are having such a great time in Mexico!