As these past two months flew by, I was able to achieve many of the goals I had initially set for my internship. On the academic front, I was able to gain great insight and understanding about diabetes and diabetic education in Ethiopia. I was able to obtain both academic and social perspectives on the extent of this chronic illness.
Personally, I had set out to understand people as more than patients. I believe that through the many conversations with patients throughout my time at Tikur Anbessa, I was able to see the other factors that affected them beyond the disease. Additionally, I now realize that their current condition isn’t only a result of the diabetes.
Though I only have one year left at Brandies, this experience has allowed me to gain many different assets that will add to my Brandeis career. It will help me choose relevant courses, attend events, etc. that will help me grow in understanding the field of public health in various contexts. Among the biggest lessons I learned during my time in Addis is that everything – every initiative, action plan, program, service, agenda – should be relevant and familiarized to the respective context. Thus, I want to use the rest of my time at Brandeis and beyond to see how different things unravel in different cultures, among different people, and the like. I have increased my desire to draw comparisons and differences among different regions, whether international or local, to understand the greater relationship between cause and effect with respect to health/illness.
During my internship, there were many things that were unexpected – for the better and worse. One piece of advice that I would give to a student interested in an internship is: Be Flexible! Your internship may not necessarily be what you initially imagined – so, being able to be flexible and work with what is before you is essential. Even when initially searching for a internship site, your interest may not always line up exactly so it is important to be able to be flexible to try something that you had not thought of. It is vital that you do not completely forget your interests, just be as accommodating as possible.
My thoughts on social justice have definitely changed as a result of this internship. Often, social justice language is used to describe an injustice that affects many people. However, at the core of social justice is overcoming the inequality among people; we often believe what it is right is what we practice. What one practices, for example, in the US, however may be completely unacceptable in another region of the world. My idea of social justice has been molded and fashioned by my experiences in Ethiopia. Social justice is not about imposing our ‘right’ on what we view as someone else’s ‘wrong’ – but instead, is working alongside those who are victims of injustice to better their current condition according to their needs and desire.