Hello from the Dubai International Airport!
I’m currently over halfway through my journey to Bangladesh – one more 5-hour flight to go, following 13 hours already in the air. At this point excitement has set in, but this follows days of near nervous breakdowns, difficult goodbyes, nerves and the indescribable mix of emotions that inevitably follow me when I travel internationally. Now that I’ve met up with the entire team and we’ve started talking strategy I’m excited to get there and get started.
But what exactly am I doing? Well, myself and 5 other undergraduates at UVA were awarded a research grant from the Jefferson Public Citizens organization to conduct a needs and capabilities assessment of Gonokendros in Bangladesh with the non-profit BRAC. Basically we are working with BRAC to develop a pilot program that will increase usage of their library system. We are also investigating how to integrate technology into the library systems to help the average citizen increase their access to information. So at this point our plans are pretty broad, but we are hoping to clarify and narrow our research ideas in conjunction with BRAC management during our first few days in Dhaka.
While we hope that our research will have a lasting impact on BRAC and the communities of Bangladesh, I am also looking at this grant as an incredible learning opportunity. As someone who wants to go into the development world, probably the non-profit sector, this is an incredible opportunity. It is also my first extended stay in a developing country – which should be a great experience in regards to my Peace Corps interest for the future. While nerves are definitely running strong, I know once I get there I will probably fall in love – just as I did with Kenya 3 years ago. The thrill of a new adventure is always overwhelming for me, but I know the experience and greater world understanding I will take from this trip is worth way more than the few days of nervous discomfort leading up to the departure.
As a public policy/leadership, and global development studies double major – I also think this trip will add valuable real-world experience to my classroom studies at UVA. Yes, you can learn a lot from theories and case studies, but ultimately I believe most of our learning is done outside of the classroom. Being able to come back in the fall with hands-on experience in the field will only deepen my understanding of the theories, and provide me with a reality to ground them in.
So there’s a very broad overview of what we’re doing and what I hope to take from this trip. I’m sure we will take unexpected twists and turns and I will learn more than I can ever imagine sitting in the airport now. I look forward to sharing my journey, both physically and mentally, with you for the next 6 weeks and hope that you can also learn something from my adventure.
And here’s a picture from the start of the journey!