That's really what it all comes down to and I love it. I try to explain this job to others outside of it, and it always just comes back to the fact that there's an incredible staff, all of whom are so imperative and carry so much weight, in making this program what it is. When you think you're working too hard, you look to the Thai ajaans, translators, program directors, our own our coordinator, and realize that you're a part of this crazy, mildly dysfunctional, but totally loving family whose one goal is to get students through the learning phases of our educational model, as happily as possible. "Forced, but enjoyable."
Today is our first personal day in at least a month - I can't quite remember the last one - oh yeah, we gave ourselves two half personal days so we could go see Harry Potter. Point being, it's been a while. Before the students got here, we were writing and editing their program guide, planning and running through orientation activities, meeting with different staff members, memorizing names, compiling reading packets. However, that too seems like the distant past. When we picked them up from the airport on 17 August, they moved from being nebulous entities to real-life humans. The students have spent the past two and a half weeks in a mixture of a Bangkok hotel, orientation resort, KKU dorm rooms, and village homestays. We've had almost daily orientation sessions with them, introducing them to life in Thailand, program themes and structures, contemplative education, reflection and evaluation, among other things. It's been incredible transferring our plans to real-life activities that need to be responsive to the general mood and composition of the group, all things that we had no way of taking into consideration before they arrived. We've been meeting our goals of every session, but definitely have improvements to take away from each one, and their program reviews help guide our next step.
I'm constantly reminded of the parallel learning process that I am undergoing alongside the students. We are not part of their group, but we're not completely separate. Their group affects us and we affect them. Reciprocality. We evaluate ourselves and them as they evaluate each other and us. We reflect on critical incidents in both our group's process and theirs, as do they. Right now, they see us as authority figures, I think, if not authorities, then experts at least in all these things that we bring to them. It's not really true - we have more experience at least with this learning model - we need it to guide them through - but we learn from them, from their past experiences, and just through the very nature of them being here and having people to engage with about the every aspect of the program.
In addition to our general "Program Faciliator" role, we all have additional responsibilites as liasions for certain staff-led sessions. I've managed to pick up all the pilot projects, which has been exciting since I have a lot of ownership in shaping their direction. We've started doing frequent program evaluations and I've been brushing up on my SPSS in order to conduct these extensive program reviews. Also, I've been continuing my Sustainable Study Abroad work, and we have a committee of eight students who are stoked on the project and taking tons of ownership over it, which is so exciting. Lastly, I'm the intern point person for the Community Public Health program as well, which meant completely splitting my time between our two programs for the first week or so, but has subsided a lot since then - there program is much more traditional academically, as those students are directly enrolled into KKU. CIEE also hired a Global Health fellow to overlook their program, so once he arrived, I haven't been out for as many sessions.
Let's see - that's basically been my life for the past month - how to find some big overarching way to sum it all up? "Mmmm. Deeee."*
*"Dee" means good. "mmmmm deeeee" has become our phrase for whenever something is really pleasent and satisfying - adopted from Ajaan Decha, the program's advisor, who feels like that when he's meditating.