A Virtual Take-Off!

A Virtual Take-Off!

This year, my travel checklist is short and concise for going to Mwanza, Tanzania internship.

A laptop
A solid internet connection
A quiet space to conduct a virtual meeting
Installing all communication applications on my phone and laptop

Photo by Ken Tomita at Pexel

Typically, students at the Western Heads East have to prepare for a long flight to East Africa. This year I have the privilege to work remotely on a community development project alongside other international development student. Due to the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, our collaboration with a community partner in Tanzanian is taking place online. However, the circumstances still allow me to fulfil my academic goals and learn more about the nature of global development work. I invite you to follow this series of blog posts to learn about my virtual journey to Mwanza, Tanzania.

Some of the challenges with a remote internship are that you do not have total exposure to and understanding of the country’s culture. During this pandemic, given this remote opportunity, I hope that we can overcome the technology glitches. So far, my Western teammate and I had a good virtual connection. We have an excellent working schedule and speak about our project regularly. However, the internet connection between Canada and Mwanza is usually unstable. Due to the time difference, we only have a short window in the morning to connect with our community partners. So, we had to adopt a flexible and informal approach to meeting with our community partners. 

Last week we had a meeting at 9:00 am, but our partners could not connect until 10:30. When we rescheduled for Monday, the internet connection made it very difficult to hold a conversation for more than five minutes, so we tried for the third time. Finally, on Tuesday, we had a good internet connection. With our  community partners’ we were able to discuss their needs, and they in turn related their ideas for the program over the coming weeks.

E-mail communication is another technology-related aspect of my internship. In the Global North, we rely on e-mail technology for sharing documents and communication. We check e-mails regularly; however, this is not the case for all our community partner members. Our group leaders in Tanzania have better access and communication through messaging apps, so we have adopted these new platforms into our routine communication.  

We are almost three weeks into our internship, and I have realised that access to various levels of technology can be an invisible privilege that we may take for granted. I have also experienced our partners’ sincerity and resiliency in trusting the process. It is heartwarming and encouraging to be part of the friendly and welcoming team. Despite all the technology-related challenges, my teammate and I have been able to clarify the program needs and goals. We established a flexible schedule to meet regularly on Zoom. I think these are reasonable first steps that have got us off to a great start. 

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