Do you know what’s worse than writing a 15-page research paper while studying abroad in Jamaica? Writing a 15-page research paper while studying abroad in Jamaica with no wifi. The lack of internet stability added further frustrations to the academic aspect of this program. From the beginning, the routers were not always consistent, and coupled with the further complications the weather had provided, we had a very difficult time completing our assignments. Luckily, the other assignments we had were not research based, but rather, based on our personal observations at our service sites or during our time in Jamaica altogether.
The program itself consisted of two aspects: the class and our service sites. Class met Monday through Friday for 2 hours, with discussions based on our assigned readings. Conversations in class got pretty heated, especially considering we were all coming from so many different upbringings and academic disciplines. I noticed that Liberal Arts students had an easier time adapting to the discussions. Topics ranged from economics to politics to social issues. I didn’t expect conversations to get so intense, but opposing views were extremely common, as were passionate convictions about certain things.
I had never had an opportunity to really delve into certain issues with white people in my classes until this program. We were forced, or encouraged, to be open with one another, despite whatever opinions someone had. Whenever race is discussed in traditional classroom settings, white people tend to retreat. I’m not sure if it’s the fear of saying something wrong or being labeled as racist that typically steers them away, but many of the white people in this program were open about their thoughts.
It’s difficult to avoid talking about race or culture when you’re in a black country. Jamaica has so much history with slavery and colonialism that it’s almost impossible to avoid it. This was not Europe. This wasn’t Asia. And because of that, conversations got real.
Additionally, a lot of reflection was made in regards to our service sites. I was assigned to RADA, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, an organization in Jamaica with the goal of driving economic growth through agricultural development. I was so excited to finally have a field project within my discipline. However, because the organization had so many duties and not enough staff, my project and role there got overlooked. There were long periods of waiting and frustration that I had not been expecting and overall uncertainty about what I would be writing about for my final paper. Even the midterm, which we took upon two weeks of arrival, had to discuss what we were working on with our projects… It was hard. But in the end, I ended up having a project after all and was able to complete my papers.