It has been a little over two months since I returned home from my summer placement in Cameroon. Although in some ways my life has slipped back into normalcy, there are other aspects that have been changed.
It’s amazing to look back at my life a mere three months ago – days filled with bucket showers, conserving energy on my phone, cooking on a gas stove, drinking solely bottled water, and conversing only in French.
A typical day for me in Cameroon seems radically different than a day in Canada. But in their essence these days are equal – me going about my everyday, quotidian life. All that differs is the context.
One of the strongest influences of my time in Cameroon on my routine today is taking the time to cook. Having a good sized and fully equipped kitchen has given me the freedom to experiment by preparing new dishes.
The joy I now find in cooking I discovered while living in Cameroon. I have never considered myself a great cook and just a little over four years ago I couldn’t even make pasta. But cooking in Cameroon with limited ingredients taught me to be creative and to not be afraid to experiment.
Another visible influence of my placement is my current part-time job on campus. I spend at least three days every week working as a telephone interviewer and most of my calls are conducted in French. I love being able to keep up the language skills I solidified over the summer.
Taking a step back, it is remarkable how easy it is to adapt to the regularity of radically different contexts. Although at the time it seemed very difficult and challenging, in the grand scheme of things the time it took for me to be comfortable in Cameroon was short. It was also surprisingly fast for me to readjust to living in Canada, and I didn’t experience much reverse-culture shock on my return.
My summer working and living in Akom 2 taught me a lot about community work, colonialism, and the human faces of international development. Short-term development has many issues and three months is not nearly enough time to accomplish all that is necessary. As I am on the other side of the world, all I can hope is that the report I left in the hands of the local government, people, and NGO will be utilized to create something positive.
Being back at the University of Waterloo for my final term of class amazes me in many ways. It still surprises me to think that I’m almost done my masters degree! It feels like just yesterday I was a new student trying to navigate a new campus and a new city.
This final term at UW is quite different from the previous terms on campus. Because it is elective-based, all the second year MDP candidates are taking different classes in different departments. Compared to other terms we don’t see as much of each other as we used to. That makes large get-togethers all the more exciting – catching up like old friends.
Another striking difference is the one thing that is on all of our minds: post-graduation employment! We are all on the job hunt whether it is local, domestic, or international. It’s astonishing to think that just one year ago we were all just sorting ourselves out in our masters level courses and now we are about to embark on the greatest learning journey of them all.
Kaylia Little is a student in the 4th Cohort of the Master’s of Development Practice program. She works as the Student Engagement Coordinator for the Program. Her research interests include community development, human rights, decolonization, gender equality, indigenous land rights, and sustainable agriculture.