Being a remote intern for WHE comes with having a different set of tasks to do every day, with some days being unpredictable. For instance, some days may be filled with meetings, and others may have little to none. Nonetheless, the dynamic schedule that comes with being a WHE intern leaves no room for monotony! Here is an example of one of my days.
On this day, I woke up to the bright sun shining in my room, and I got out of bed early to get ready for the day. I like to spend my mornings doing some yoga and stretches, so I pulled my yoga mat out and did a 30-minute yoga session. Although it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise right in the morning, the feeling afterwards is always so rewarding! I then got myself prepared for my first meeting of the day with my supervisor, Delphine Kessy, at SAUT. We had a productive call, and I went over the meeting notes that I and my fellow interns, Alex and Lisa made during the meeting.
I then made myself a coffee and sat back down to go over the presentation that our YOU group made for a youth education session that was scheduled for the end of the week. I practiced the notes on my slides a few times because I hadn’t done a live presentation since my first year at Western and was slightly nervous!
After practicing the presentation, I went downstairs to greet my grandparents and mom and helped make lunch for all of us. Afterwards, my mom and I decided to take advantage of the warm summer weather and go for a walk outside.
After the walk, I had a meeting scheduled with my YOU group to go over the youth education presentation we made and make some final changes before sharing it for our supervisor’s review. We also had the chance to talk about our plans and tasks for SAUT for the following week.
After this, I attended our WHE weekly meeting where all the WHE interns share what they have been working on throughout the week and what their future projects are. It’s always interesting and exciting to hear about the different projects that other interns are working on!
I then began my evening by watching Netflix (Stranger Things season 4 is so good!) and helping my family prepare for dinner. After dinner, I always end my day off by going for a walk with my mom. Here is the sunset I saw that day!
While every day looks different as a WHE intern, some days will be busier than others. I have found it helpful to use Google Calendar to ensure I am reminded of any upcoming meetings. I also like to take breaks in between during the day to make sure I am spending time away from technology and recharging.
So here it is, a typical day in my life as a WHE intern!
Although the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and caused many to switch to working from home, remote jobs and internships have persisted in 2022. While working from home has many benefits (my commute is from my bed to my desk!), remote work has presented some obstacles along the way. Given these challenges that I am sure that current interns (and future interns!) are experiencing, I wanted to use this post to reflect on some of these challenges I have faced, and what I have learned from them.
- Time differences: For my internship, my group and community partners at SAUT operate under EAT (East Africa Time), a time zone 7 hours ahead of EDT (Eastern Daylight Time). It is important to work around this time difference to schedule meetings that work for both your community partners and you. I usually schedule meetings between 8 am – 10 am EDT, which is 3 pm – 5 pm EAT. Although I have had the occasional meeting at 7 am or sent some WhatsApp texts at 2 am, this meeting timeframe has worked well. I also find it helpful to send emails to schedule meetings using EAT and convert the difference for myself.
- Engagement: Being a remote internship, it is difficult to gain a sense of culture through a few Zoom meetings and messages. At SAUT, it has been somewhat challenging to schedule meetings with all the students in my group and acquire information from them for me to do my work. Thus, it took me some time to learn about how the cultural relevancy of volunteerism differs between Tanzania and the Western world, such that volunteering in the West is of higher importance. While neither cultural relevance is better or more correct, a useful tip that has helped me deal with the cultural difference in volunteer commitment is sending reminder emails or WhatsApp messages.
- Balance: I am currently working with both SAUT and YOU, and if you are also working with two organizations, you will understand when I say it can be difficult to always give them both equal attention. Going into this internship, I thought I would be committing the same amount of time to both organizations and they would be progressing at the same rate. However, over the past few weeks, both projects have been moving at different paces, where one is not progressing as fast as the other. Thus, it can feel overwhelming having not made enough progress on both projects. I have overcome this by working with my fellow WHE interns on how we can improve the similar challenges we have faced on our projects. Ultimately, communicating with your groups and finding ways to work around any challenges together can greatly ease these concerns!
All this is to say that patience and adjustability are two important traits that you will learn along the way on your journey as an intern. From communication challenges to changing deliverables, this internship has been a dynamic process, and I have found it helpful to have a problem-solving mindset and to spend time disconnecting and recharging.
When I am not working on either project, I like to spend my evenings away from my laptop and go for walks to see the sunset every day! Here is a picture of the sunset I saw this week!
Welcome to my blog!
To start off, I’d like to introduce myself to those following my journey as an intern for Western Heads East (WHE). My name is Gurleen Arora, and I’m going into my fourth year in the Honours Specialization in Health Sciences with Biology program at Western University.
When I entered University, I was most excited about my courses in biology. However, my program has allowed me to diversify my understanding of health beyond physiology and biology to the social determinants of health (SDOH) and how they play a role in how people experience health. Taking courses related to health promotion, health policy, and the geography of health have all helped me develop an appreciation and passion for global health and equity. On a personal level, I have always been fond of learning about people’s backgrounds and cultures to gain a better understanding of different perspectives on the world.
My interest in global health was reaffirmed when I participated in the blog competition for the Power & Global Health Day 2021 at Western and also attended some of the events there. Hearing about research and stories presented by some of the panellists made me realise how I could combine my personal interests in culture and health to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Thus, this internship is important to me because it will enable me to apply a cultural lens to health and apply what I have learned throughout my academic career to the real world.
Moving into internship specifics, this week I have started working remotely as a WHE intern for both Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). SAUT is located in Mwanza, Tanzania, and they aim to further grow their Fiti Probiotic Yogurt kitchen while also economically empowering local women and sharing the benefits of probiotic yoghurt with the community. YOU is a non-profit organization based in London, Ontario that aims to empower youth and further develop their yoghurt program at the YOU Made it Café. Both organizations emphasize the importance of providing knowledge and nutrition to improve health outcomes. Being an active part of a process that will increase accessibility to healthy options both in London and in Tanzania is important to me because I have learned how removing structural barriers is extremely important in achieving better health outcomes.
With this internship being remote, I am sure that there will be some challenges along the way. For instance, during my first meeting with SAUT this week, we had to switch from using Zoom to WhatsApp because of connection issues! Nonetheless, with the support of my supervisors, interns, and preparation from the internship modules, I am certain that I will be able to use my problem-solving skills to overcome the obstacles that may arise with an internship with virtual communication.
The opportunity to work with both SAUT and YOU will undoubtedly provide valuable experience and allow me to build on my skillset to prepare for my future in global health and global competency. Overall, I am looking forward to these next few months as an intern and all the learning I will do!