Best of both worlds!

February 15, 2019 | Robin, Honours - Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Malawi, WUSC, Student Refugee Program

At this point I am approaching the half way mark of my journey here in Malawi, and I am already feeling the pressure to cram in as much as I can into this wonderful experience. It takes time to settle and by the time that you do, you realize just how short your three months is.

My experience hasn’t all been roses, but I am so grateful for all my trials and tribulations along the way. I came into my internship feeling overconfident in my abilities to adjust to life in Malawi and underconfident with my capabilities in my professional role. To my surprise, I found my confidence was a little skewed.

After living in Tanzania previously, I expected to have a relatively similar transition into life in Malawi. That was not quite the case! I expected my journey of adjustment to be like the smooth sailing I had in Tanzania, but I was met with challenges when it took longer to adjust to my environment and the people in it. Eventually I found my stride in the foreign environment, and I found my support system as well!

On the other hand, I was definitely feeling some imposter syndrome coming in knowing that I would be responsible for preparing refugee students to come to Canada. How could I possibly teach 23 young people about all they need to know about living in Canada in three months? Where do I start? Do I even know enough about Canada? I’m not a teacher, am I even qualified to teach? These anxieties are relatively normal when starting a new position, but I battled with my anxieties and trusting my capabilities. As I began lesson planning and teaching, I have found my groove and realized that I am not an imposter and that I am doing the best I can with my available resources. My time with the students has become my favourite part of my experience here in Malawi. They are bright young adults, who are exemplary examples of living resilience. My time with them has only solidified my career choices and maybe even altered my future employment aspirations.

In my short time here, I feel as though I have already grown immensely. With my previous internship in development, I was just thankful for the opportunity. As I continue in my role as an SRP intern, supporting office staff and getting to know other peers working in refugee services, I have come to realize that those dreams of working full time in development are not so out of reach. I can recognize my capabilities and the skills that I am developing everyday.

I find my experience extra special, as I get to not only immerse myself in Malawian culture, but I also get to experience a wider East African culture at Dzaleka, the refugee camp. I was overjoyed to find that I could enjoy the chipsi mayai and chapati that I had loved in Tanzania back at Dzaleka! I’m getting the best of both worlds!

For the rest of my time here, my hope is that I will continue to grow with my students, continue to push myself out of my comfort zone, and improve my Swahili and Chichewa!

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