So long, Roatán: Final Reflections

The end of my internship experience brings with it an odd and familiar sentiment. I simultaneously feel as if a) I literally just got here yesterday, and b) my current schedule/routine has been my normalforever.  It’s a feeling I know well, but is maybe more concentrated given that this experience has been condensed into the confines of a summer. Mostly, however, as my final week Roatán rapidly approaches, I just find myself thinking “….already???” In addition to finishing-up reports for our organization, this blog has forced me to devote some time to a reflection on lessons learned. For all interested – here they are! 

First and foremost, internships are hard! As much as I loved getting to know this corner of the world, and being involved with our project, a summer is not long – our time here has an expiration date! As such, it has been hard to know that, as invested as I may be in a certain aspect of our work, come fall I will be back at Penn and the project will keep moving forward without us. Perhaps more challenging for me than the work-timeframe was the expiration date put on our lives here in general! My last job transported me to a new location where I lived for over three years. While I loved my work, I cared even more about the relationships I was able to build! Knowing that I was there for the long haul really let me invest the time and energy into building a home and a social network about which I care deeply. Being here for only a couple of months reminded me of how much I miss that! It’s been an experiment in learning to embrace the temporary and make the most of the time we’re given.

One of the schools we visited was in this community accessible only by boat! Note the houses on stilts.

Secondly, and building off of this idea that we’re only here for so long, I’ve really tried to focus my goals for this experience around, more than anything, learning and growing! Our project has of course not gone exactly as planned, but rather than dwell on the final product that we’re currently working to produce, I’ve been re-framing to think about all the new skills that I’ve been able to develop in the process. Being part of a very small team at our organization, we’ve been allotted a lot of responsibilities and allowed to wear a number of different hats. While there is physically no way to master a skillset in a period of 8 weeks, I’ve dipped my toes into the practical world of research, data analysis, proposal writing, content generation, audio production, and a whole lot of other different facets of this work that I hadn’t yet seen up close. For the experience alone, I am very thankful!

Thirdly, since I started off this blog series complaining about the heat, I will finish it by saying, it’s not that bad!! I got used to it after not that long, and have yet again confirmed that I belong in a warm climate.

As far as the work goes – if last month was data collection, this month we have moved fully into data analysis! At HQ they use software for this process, but here on Roatán we are lucky enough to do it all by hand. This meant cutting up our interview transcripts into tiny spliced quotes and organizing them by category for review one by one! Here comes a big shout out to our local coffee shop for lending us scissors and tables and for not kicking us out after many many hours!! If all goes well, by the time you’re reading this we’ll have sent off a formative report monitoring the program’s process and midline results to our organization. How exciting is that?!

Poll: Is report writing more fun with a view of the ocean?

In my remaining week, I will be enjoying the last bit of sunshine here on the island before making my way back to Philly for the fall.  With that, please enjoy this final picture from a recent trip to a sloth sanctuary. Thanks for reading!! 

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