Day 31: The Takeaways

Dear reader, my internship in Rwanda is coming to an end. Hard to believe it. Hate to see it. Soon I’ll be back on American soil, day-dreaming about my return. But I can’t leave this beautiful land of 1,000 hills without some introspection. What did I learn? How has this experience shaped me? These are questions I’ll be asking myself for years to come, but for now, here are five answers I could come up with (sorry they’re cliche…but cliches are usually cliche because they’re true):

1- No Man is An Island: one thing I’ve really enjoyed about Rwanda is the sense of community (discussed in Blog #5), which pervades all aspects of society. A co-worker’s brother dies? The entire office attends the funeral. Someone gets in an accident? People stop what they’re doing and run from everywhere to help the victim. Raised in the extremely individualistic American society, I came into Kigali with the mindset that I was my own best weapon. I was all I needed to succeed in life. But then I got here…I saw how selflessly people interacted with one and other, and as I floundered to acclimate to east African life on my own, I realized all I had to do to swim was reach out my hand to the lovely people here. Though I  previously thought I was capable of navigating the world by myself, I now realize that in order to be truly happy, it is the company of others in which I thrive.

Enjoying a party with co-workers and their families. These people are who made my time in Rwanda as amazing as it was.

2- It’s Okay to Ask for Help: this piggy-backs off my last point; if you don’t know what you’re doing, for the love of God, please ask for help. Whether working on a project and you aren’t sure you heard the instructions right, trying to find your way to a place where GoogleMaps can’t show you, or laying in a hospital bed unsure of why you’re getting injected with mysterious liquids, you are wasting your precious time if you let your pride get in the way. No one expects you to know what you’re doing or what’s going on all the time. In fact, admitting your faults and/or lack of knowledge makes you a stronger, more relatable person.

If you don’t let people guide you, you’ll miss out on some amazing experiences.

3- Life is Lived Through a Range of Emotions: even when you’re working in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, surrounded by wonderful people, you are going to have bad days. In my time here, I have felt the most extreme range of emotions I’ve ever felt in my life. Joy, pain, confusion, sadness, anger, amazement, boredom, abandonment, self-consciousness…the list goes on and on. But even on the days where I was upset and googling the quickest flight home, at the end of those days, all I felt was gratefulness. Gratefulness for the opportunity to be able to feel such a vast range of emotions in such a short period of time, because all of those emotions taught me something about myself and the world. They helped me grow into more of an adult, giving me experience in working through both the best and worst of days.

Some of the saddest things I’ve seen have later resulted in the most joy.

4- Take Care of Yourself: no one is going to do this for you, even in a tight knit community. No one is going to tell you how to spend your money, what food to eat, how much sleep to get. Knowing the importance of self-care was especially important for me when I was sick. Though going to the hospital (as I NEVER go to doctors, even in the states) was a scary experience in and of itself, if I hadn’t have bucked up, gotten out of bed and taken the moto ride over, I don’t know what condition I’d be in right now. No one was there to translate for me or hold my hand when I was in the ER. But I stuck it out and guess what? I’m okay and have some awesome stories.

Give yourself the fuel necessary to thrive each day. Traditional rwandan buffets are my go-to.

5- Only Worry About What You Control: during my time in Rwanda, many things have been out of my control. In any internship, no matter the location, there will be lots you can’t control. How long it takes your supervisors and co-workers to approve your work, give you essential materials, or respond to your emails are some of the most common and inconsequential obstacles to your success. Going a little deeper is how people will perceive you based on your skin color, nationality, religion, and gender. For the first time in my life, I have visibly been out of place in the society I’m living in (many of you can probably relate this to your experience living the US), and it has influenced the ways in which people interact with me. It also doesn’t help that I do not speak French or Kinyarwandan…so with these things considered, a lot of my life and work experience has been go with the flow, something unfamiliar to someone who tends to be controlling and upright such as myself. If I worried about every single time someone tried to overcharge me, drive the opposite direction I told them to go, or gave me a discomforting look on the street, I would be a paranoid, dysfunctional mess. So therefore, there is no point in worrying about these things. Life will do what life does, and no matter how much we fight that sometimes, we’re just along for the ride.

True ‘happyness’ comes from letting go of how you think your day should go.

I could go on and on, and much deeper about my experience than I have here on this blog. If you ever want to reach out and ask me about my time in Rwanda one on one, PLEASE DO! It’s an amazing country. And if you’re on SnapChat, please check out @DickinsonCol for my takeover on Monday, July 9th. You’ll get an intimate exclusive of my work day, as well as meet some of my awesome co-workers and see some cool Kigali attractions. Thank you for following me on this journey.

Feel free to browse this digital archive of my adventures:  

6 Replies to “Day 31: The Takeaways”

  1. Great blog…very in sightful…am anxious to learn more of your internship. Safe travels and God bless.

  2. This is why you have to experience. Many people told you those things growing up. But hands on experience teaches you these things. If you are welcome the experience, you gain wisdom and insight. I am so happy you welcomed it even when it went against your grain. I know you will be just fine…nope take that back…you will be amazing. Love you.

    1. Kelly, I completely agree!!! Thank you for being part of teaching me these lessons before I experience them.

  3. Hey Liz,
    Great job with your blog-what a great way to encapsulate all of your experiences, not just the picture perfect moments. Will use this as inspiration when I’m abroad in the spring!

    -CSE Summer Intern

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