Life in Malawi

June 8, 2018 | Sidra, Joint Honours - Criminology and Women's Studies, Malawi, Uniterra, Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS, Information Management Officer

As I wrap up my fourth week in Lilongwe, Malawi, I find I am adjusting well to life here, as I am better equipped to navigate the international internship. In preparing for the internship prior to my arrival, I focused a lot on physical aspects, such as packing. I am finding that the pre-departure trainings were beneficial in helping to manage expectations and keep an open mind. I find this has been crucial to the process of settling in, because every day I am faced with new challenges and discoveries.

Since life in Malawi is quite different than that in Canada, simple things like getting around the city and passing time have presented the most challenges. While at first, I found myself constantly comparing, as I develop my skills in adaptability and resourcefulness, I am understanding Malawian culture a lot better. For example, with the current issue of the country wide power shortage, I have had to learn to do regular tasks differently, like cooking food. I have learned to embrace these differences, because they have taught me a lot about myself and increased my capabilities. Especially after our second visit to the market, I find that I am much more confident and comfortable when I walk around. I am fascinated by the marketplace, because one can get anything and everything. There are stores here for our convenience, but it has been to interesting participate in activities with locals to gain better insight into a different way of life.

In particular, working at COWLHA has been incredibly eye-opening as I have been able to witness grassroots activism. Since I myself am studying Criminology and Women’s studies, I was a little nervous about how I could effectively contribute as an intern. However, I have realized that over the past three years I have learned a lot of transferable skills that can be implemented in many contexts. Whether it be skills in computer literacy or research I find that am able to apply prior knowledge, while also learning on the spot. Over the course of my undergrad I took various classes on globalization but at COWLHA I have been able to witness it firsthand. While I am no longer in a traditional classroom, at work I can see how concepts like empowerment and resource mobilization are used in different contexts.

As the nerves have subsided and I have established a routine, I find that I am prepared to further immerse myself in this experience. Though, it took a few weeks to find my groove, I am eager to continue to develop my skill set and knowledge through personal and professional experiences. I look forward to learning more about the culture to better understand the desire and needs of the people. So far, this experience has truly reinforced that people are more alike than different. I am happy to contribute in any way, shape or form, because I realize that this is mutually beneficial. I would like to use this experience to propel me into becoming a global citizen and continue to pursue opportunities here that will help me use my education for the greater good.

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