The thoughts, sights, and sounds of my summer as an EWB Junior Fellow

“Oh no, I was way too intentional”

This is what I want to say on August 28th, 2012.

Perhaps the greatest thing I can take away from today is the need for me to more mindfully bring intention to everything I do for the next four months, if not for the rest of my life. Yesterday I arrived at EWB house in Toronto, and today was our first full day of pre-departure learning. George Roter, CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada and an all-around fantastic guy (look him up on YouTube if you want to be inspired), briefly mentioned the importance of intention in shaping our JF placements. He posed three key questions which will define my entire summer, and which will serve as guidance when things get rough. Tonight I will share the second question with you.

“What am I doing to own my own learning?”

In a typical university class, the syllabus is handed out on the first day, and from that moment I know the books that I will need to read and understand, even the pages that I need to specifically focus on, the assignments which I will need to complete, and the date of critical exams. The road to success is quite clear, if I only put in enough time and energy.

The JF program and my placement, however, is not quite like that. There is a syllabus of sorts, but we are advised to not allow the syllabus to get in the way. Instead, we are advised to treat it like an open research project in which we use the African Program Staff (APS) we are working with, our chapters and support networks back in Canada, a plethora of print resources, previous Junior Fellows, and co-workers in Ghana like a library. The outcome of the project is ambiguous and the path is ambiguous. As George said, we will be joining our teams in doing some of the hardest work in the world, at least as far as having the ability to produce a “successful” or “complete” end product.

So where does that put me now? Today was full of so many new connections, thought-provoking conversations, and questioning of who I am as a person and how I am in relationship with others. What I thought I knew about poverty and development is suddenly a miniscule part of something almost impossible to define and measure. My plan for influence at the USask chapter during and after my placement now has a rough timeline and a strategy for accountability (if you are from USask, expect it in your mailboxes soon!) and I continue to be more conscious of the ways in which my learning can be transformed from something offered by another into something vitally important to my being.

It is my intention to push myself this week.

4 responses

  1. Wow I really felt your intentions through that post! đŸ˜‰ but in all seriousness, I really appreciate your thoughts and focus on defining and pushing your own learning, and your own agenda. I am wondering, while focusing on achieving things for yourself, your chapter, and your work overseas, how will you balance pushing yourself more, motivating past the basic level, with celebrating your small wins and giving yourself enough credit for what change you can/are affecting?

    May 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    • alannahowell

      Thanks Janine for the great prompts for reflection. This is something I have been discussing with the other JFs quite a lot this week. After writing this post, I am realizing the importance of appreciating what I am able to do, how I am growing without even noticing. But also, intention implies that you have a goal you are working towards. I need to make sure that I have a clear idea of what I am trying to be intentional about, before I can measure whether or not I am growing the way I want.

      Cheers đŸ™‚

      May 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  2. bbest86

    Great post Alanna! Love the focus on intentional learning – we just had an entire team meeting focused around the idea of brining more rigour and intention to our team’s learning so it’s super exciting to hear that you’re thinking about the same things in pre-dep!

    Looking forward to having you land next week and then to hear your reflections on August 28th!

    May 8, 2012 at 3:28 am

  3. Wanted to drop a remark and let you know your Feed is not functioning today. I tried adding it to my Bing reader account and got absolutely nothing.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm

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