Kreyòl pale, kreyòl konprann. Haiti is a country that teaches us many lessons. As her student, I learned the importance of language, dialogue, and the commitment necessary to understand our international partners. Researching small island development strategies, I strive to find poverty alleviation initiatives that are effective and consider the customs of local stakeholders. Prior to my Boren Fellowship, I studied Kreyòl Ayisyen (Haitian Creole) independently, so immersion in the Haitian culture was a natural next step.
Providing financial and critical logistical support, the Boren Fellowship was essential to fulfilling my academic and professional goals. While in Haiti, language classes, frequent excursions, and public interactions were colossal motivators that fueled my desire to learn Kreyòl. In addition, my community introduced me to the levels of complexity in both verbal and nonverbal communication. I also received an informal education on the socioeconomic rift between the majority of the population and those who speak French.
As an information and communication technology (ICT) specialist, my challenge is to furnish appropriate tools to share knowledge and promote collaboration. So, I chose to intern with Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haïti (ESIH), a private Haitian university specializing in business administration and ICT. Allowing me to observe the constraints on technology, I frequently provided training to various contractors and NGOs. Since spatial monitoring is crucial to Haiti’s development and humanitarian efforts, I did a lot of GIS mapping as well. Toward that aim, I am considering a federal service position that monitors the impact of climate change and disaster relief response throughout the Caribbean.
Future applicants for the Boren Fellowship should carefully consider what they hope to gain from their overseas experience. Be prepared for unexpected, but necessary, budget expenditures that are guaranteed to come up. I also encourage connecting with Embassy staff to learn more about events, networking opportunities, and safety precautions. Applicants planning to go to Haiti should maintain a calm, determined demeanor, build a sense of flexibility into their schedule, and pursue activities that improve their personal well-being.
Overall, my experience allowed me to get in touch with a country that I have studied for years. Many of the spontaneous adventures and heartfelt discussions will stay with me and influence my future career decisions. With encouragement from the Institute of International Education team, the lessons and advice I received shape my perspective on sustainable development and appreciation for the exchange of people and ideas. Working in a field of uncertainty, I am more confident in my skills and abilities, but also humbled as I prepare for the final chapter of my graduate education.
Written: September 2013