Feeling SKWIDish

Welcome to my first blog post of my entire journey in Édea, Cameroon! It has been a long process so far, so it is funny that it is still not only the beginning, but also that I am still only in the preparation stage of the whole thing. It started out with the application process with Cuso International back in July, then the phone interview, then the trip to Ottawa for “Assessment Day”, which was pretty much a day-long group interview. That alone would have made a pretty interesting blog post. After I was accepted, there were suddenly a million things to do, and once I would finish one thing it would create 5 more tasks, or bring to mind more questions about how to properly prepare for going abroad in (at the time) less than two months. Now I have a plane ticket booked for Friday of next week, meaning that I have less than two weeks to finish all the preparations and get packed.

I was pretty busy this past summer, as I have a habit of finding lots of things to occupy my time. I had two jobs; one as a Tennis Court Monitor and the other as a bartender. I was also taking the final three courses of my undergrad. I’m sure that most undergrads go through this. You know what I mean, that feeling that when undergrad comes to a close, and you put that pencil down at the end of that last exam, you get a jolt of both endless possibility and uncertainty. In the beginning of the summer I had no specific clue what I was going to be doing at the end of the summer. I assumed I would just be applying for lots of jobs, and I was also toying with the idea of going abroad, but I hadn’t yet found a program that I thought was reliable enough, or in line enough with my ambitions and values to apply for. It was only by chance that I came across Cuso.

One day, before work, I was trying to find out what would be the most sensible option as a Canadian young adult who wanted to go abroad and experience a culture outside of the western world. That was my main goal, though I also was thinking it wouldn’t be much worth it if I wasn’t gaining work experience at the same time, or if it would only dig deeply into my life-long savings (which are not as abundant as they sound). Anyway, I was googling “Canadian equivalent of Peace Corps”, and I came across a Yahoo Answers post that directed the reader toward Cuso. I don’t usually listen to Yahoo Answers, but obviously I was desperate as you can assume from my search criteria and what link I decided to click on that came up from it. I was clearly in the deep web. The next step was at least clear; I went to Cuso’s website and looked through their job board at potential volunteer opportunities. Side note: I almost got discouraged away from them because of the postings being labeled as “volunteer” opportunities. My life-savings just couldn’t handle anymore volunteering. But I gave the organization a chance and read further only to find out that, if accepted, Cuso covers most of your expenses, including flight. On the job board I found a Media/Communications Advisor position in Cameroon. Perfect, I’m in New Media in school. Cameroon? Cameroon is a French speaking country. Oh, good, I did the Explore program back in my second year and can speak conversational French now, I thought. Everything about the position lined up almost perfectly with what I was looking for in an organization and placement. To be honest, I was pretty surprised. I had started to believe that I was being overly idealistic looking for a program to go abroad with that would meet my requirements.

Fast forward to early November and it’s time to go to Ottawa again for Pre-departure training or, what Cuso calls it, SKWID training (Skills for Working in Development). Now you finally understand the title of this post. I’m sure you thought I was just trying and failing to be funny, but now you see that I am actually pretty punny. Disclaimer, it is more of a pun on the term “skittish” than “squidish”. Urban dictionary basically defines squidish as another term for lazy, and we were definitely pretty non-lazy throughout the intensive 5-day session. However, before the training I was feeling a little skittish and unprepared for the 6-month placement that I would be embarking on in less than a month. I really do feel like myself, along with the rest of the group there for that session, learned a lot about how we would work in an unfamiliar environment, and with people coming from a very diverse variety of backgrounds and ages. Even though I had to leave at the end of the fourth day because I had my convocation the next day, I still felt that we as a group got just about as close as you can get in four days with the same group of people. I even learned all their names!

Here we are looking like one big Cuso family:

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