The last month has been overshadowed for me by the terrible violence ongoing in South Sudan, which was my home for over two years. There’s not really a good way to explain how it feels speaking on the phone to your friend who is living as an IDP (internationally displaced person) in a UN base, terrified of leaving for fear of his life due to his ethnicity, and you stuck in another country unable to help.
Studying has been at times a necessary distraction from being hypnotized by the Twitter page marching on with horrific news. Having finally received my books and Stata CD, I have been ploughing ahead, and am now about halfway through the course textbooks for two courses, and a third of the way through the statistics modules for my statistics course, so I feel like I’ve caught up despite my slow start.
I’ve also attended a live blackboard collaborate session on epidemiology, and listened to a recording of another I missed. I really like this interface, and especially attending the live session was great, being able to ‘put up your hand’ and ask the teacher questions via the web :).
Learning statistics has been at times like pulling teeth, but I think I’m just about getting it. As someone who’s worked in social research for years it is actually quite a relief to finally properly study things such as confidence intervals and t-tests, which I’ve heard referred to before but never properly understood. The way of teaching the course through clickable web pages that take you through things is also a very creative method and I think much better than a simple textbook in this case. I just need to be able to memorise some of the many facts, figures and equations I’ve learnt in my various courses, now that I’ve understood them… One disadvantage of not having a teacher here is at times I’m unsure what is an important fact I should memorise and what it not. Do I need to know the dates of UN resolutions for climate change or is that just background? Should I be able to reel off the acceptable level of cadmium in water? I will try to use the message boards to get some clarity on that sort of thing.
And so, as 2014 comes around, I am preparing to move again. I had asked about returning to South Sudan, but in the end there is a position urgently needing filling in Jordan, so I will be moving there soon, to work in one of the refugee camps for the Syria crisis. My living conditions will be a lot better than in South Sudan so I am looking forward to having four walls and potentially even hot water (!). Meanwhile, I will continue studying and hoping for a resolution to the conflict affecting so many people I know and love.
Happy 2014 everyone.
Nadia is studying the Postgraduate Certificate in Public Health by distance learning. She is originally from the UK but lives overseas as an aid worker.