Blog 2 – Learning every day

My internship has been amazing. My colleagues include me in all their meetings, they treat me so well, and they take every opportunity they can to help me learn. Not only have they given me super interesting projects to work on, but they also give me the independence to work on them.

I have known since high school that I wanted to work in international development and about two years ago I decided that I wanted to go into public health. With each class, internship or job I feel like I narrow my interests even more. While being here I have realized that I want to focus my career on sexual and reproductive health. And I want to focus on research, project implementation or evaluation. Every day that I am here I get more and more excited to start my MPH in health behavior and health education! Being on the ground has made me more sure in my decision to stay and continue studying.

I have to admit that after being in Senegal for 6 months I miss home more and more. I have found it hard to deal with cultural and religious differences especially in my homestay. A lot of my work since March has been related to decreasing HIV/AIDS within the LGBTQ community. I have tried to engage in conversation with my host family about LGBTQ human rights and have found it very emotionally draining.

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a two day workshop with underground LGBTQ leaders to create a strategic advocacy plan for the LGBTQ community in an effort to decrease HIV/AIDS nationwide. It was very difficult but at the same time inspiring. These people face so much violence, discrimination, and hatred in their homes, the workplace, education, healthcare, religious institutions and especially with the law. But it is amazing to see them come together and have a safe space where they can be themselves.

My other project has been to analyse the data of a study of youth’s knowledge, attitudes and behavior related to sexual and reproductive health. I have come across many difficulties in analyzing the data because of the way the questionnaire was implemented. If anything it has shown me the importance of piloting a study before implementing it. I have also been trying to teach the health and social justice team how to analyse data using SPSS. I hope that once I leave they will be able to use these skills to better analyse and later utilise data to implement evidence based programs.

Today I am leaving on a short trip to Casamance – the southernmost region of Senegal below the Gambia. I am excited to explore a more tropical region and get to experience village life even if it’s for a short amount of time. I will be eating mangos nonstop for 5 days!

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