Beyond the Textbook

LSHTM logoIt’s odd: in some ways I feel I really haven’t done enough studying since I came to Jordan. I work more than a full time job, often for example catching a work car to commute to Zaatari [a refugee camp in Jordan for Syrians] at 6.45am and not getting back home until 6.20pm, at which point I still have work to finish off. In addition, I have to do work most weekends, the combination of which doesn’t leave a lot of room for studying.

Children in Zaatari refugee camp. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Children in Zaatari refugee camp. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

On the other hand, I am now two thirds of the way through my online statistics courses and have finished the two textbooks for my other two courses (Introduction to Epidemiology and Environment Health and Sustainable Development). This has led me to a conundrum – what to do next? Should I be memorizing everything in them? I have decided on the alternative route which is to start just looking for related articles online.

In many ways I find this more fun. It’s like detective work, and I can focus on what really interests me – for example I just read a great article about the incidence of substance abuse in populations affected by civil war and terrorism. While I have found the textbooks interesting in general, now I can narrow my gaze a little to conflict affected and resource poor environments, to diseases such as TB rather than cancer and heart disease. I have not managed to read much but it’s brought back the excitement to my studies. I feel like I used to during my BA, questing for knowledge openly rather than only having it handed to me.

I am also beginning to reap the benefits of learning statistics, albeit the process is incredibly painful at times – both with regards to my work but also to random stuff – interested in a haircare product? Now I can actually understand the study they link to demonstrating its benefits and make a proper judgement as to whether it is indeed effective or not? Who knew public health would be useful when buying beauty products! Other useful applications include chiming in when people are complaining about the ice-castle-like qualities of our new guesthouse (as NGOs often provide accommodation for international employees) “the minimum house temperature to maintain human health is 16 degrees” (our house definitively does not meet this criteria).

So, in short, I am slowly becoming one of those people who can randomly mention facts and figures and statistical methods in everyday life, which I guess must mean that it is sinking in. Simultaneously I am reaching out my brain into the far recesses of online journals when I can, which is rewarding. I just hope this pays off and I can pass the exams!

Nadia is studying the Postgraduate Certificate in Public Health by distance learning. She is originally from the UK but lives in Jordan as an aid worker.

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