As I delight in my Rwandan family, I feel similarly blessed by the TI staff and my scholars.
The staff is comprised of three advisors including me. The other two, Emily and Kathryn, feel like friends I have had for years. Both PeaceCorps alums in Mozambique and Belize respectively, we all have a similar aptitude for adventure and cross-cultural experiences.
We complement one another not only in our interests, but also our strengths. I learn from each of them every day how to better support our students and am not so secretly recruiting them both to the student affairs profession.
Kathryn attended a private Christian college and just completed a MA in a nonprofit leadership program. Few people understand the implications of a school like Westmont or a program like mine in SOLES, so I am wowed by our resonance within each. Emily rounds out our team, for Kathryn and I together would likely share too many blind spots. She comes from a marine science background and is well schooled in listening, providing the technical lens and quiet that would otherwise be lacking.
We are enhanced by our incredible Country Associate Edison, a Ugandan studying at Brandeis currently, and our in-country staff person, Noel, a Rwandan whose brilliance and humor never ceases to amaze me.
And how we laugh together. The five of us keep coming up with excuses to meet so we can see each other more than the expected once a week meeting. We encourage our scholars to plan tours in other’s communities and hitch a ride to one another whenever Noel will allow it. Emily and I have even walked to the borders of each of our communities to share curriculum resources (and, honestly, to hang out together).
I love them each dearly and can’t believe we have only five more weeks on staff together, or that we’ve only known one another for five.
As for my scholars, they are great. Hailing from Dartmouth, Georgetown, USC, Claremont McKenna, Colgate, and Carleton, they are a bright bunch with a wide range of disciplines, perspectives, knowledge, and experience. We have a great team dynamic and they support one another through their experiences well, making my job quite easy.
Right now, the scholars are approaching community members they met throughout immerse and are inviting them to be on their design teams. Everyone, including me, is nervous and excited to begin the heart of the design work and to see what comes of this experience.
As I miss my community back home, I am thankful to be surrounded by such wonderful people.