Every year I take 20-25 geography students on an excursion around Namibia. Most of them have never been in southern Africa before. And practically none of them have ever done fieldwork abroad. For a month they get to test their skills, but maybe more importantly, their own limits and comfort zones.
Climbing Station Dune at Gobabeb Reseach and Training Centre in the Namib Desert is the easy part, along with spotting their first giraffe and watching lions up close.
The hard part is the fieldwork; it’s to take that giant leap from the office desk and the auditoriums in Scandinavia and into the scorching hot midday sun. It is to dare to walk up to a crowd of strangers sitting in the shade under a large tree and have the guts to talk to them, not knowing if anyone of them will speak a language you can understand. It is to be confident enough in their research projects and methodology to be able to engage an individual or a group of people in a discussion and to be firm enough to keep the conversations on the topics you’re interested in. And it’s about being able to sit down afterwards and look through your notes, and, at least attempt, to analyze the data.
During this excursion, I’m on top of my game. I love all the preparations; from developing the itinerary and budget, to making sure we’ve got enough food and water to last us the distance.
And I think the students feel on top of things when they’ve conducted their first interview and feel that they got something useful out of it. That sense of relief afterwards, when they sink back and sigh and say: “You know what, that was actually pretty cool.”
I love that moment, and I love to watch their steep development and learning curves during these few weeks. It’s my highlight of the year. Nothing tops it.
This post is part of Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge.