FAQ for Researching in the Field (J. Scheineson)

Frequently asked questions for students who are researching in the field

Answers and Insight provided by John Scheineson, traveled to Tanzania with Innovative Healthcare Models Abroad Team Research Fellowship

1) How do I stay organized abroad?

The first, and most important, step to staying organized abroad is to be organized before you depart. If you plan your study with an attention to detail and create a few organizing documents in the states, then all it will come down to when abroad is keeping current with those. Any work done abroad will be harder than in the states, if not because resources are more limited, then because of the fact that you could be experiencing a foreign culture instead of typing up a progress report at any moment. The more things are set in stone (or, because you're working abroad, silly putty) at home, the less stress you will experience abroad.

If you plan on having a computer and are doing all or most of your work on that, organization is as simple as making a folder for the project and backing it up regularly (do this! or, risk losing all of your work). Keep in mind that things that are simple and cheap to do at home, printing and copying in our case, may be a real headache abroad. 

If your study requires any collection of any physical material or paper documents (i.e. surveys), access to a place with secure storage and a bit of usable workspace is essential. This may seem like common sense, but it is something to keep in mind when booking a hostel or other accommodation.

If you are working with many people over the course of this study, which you likely will be, keep a book with all names, details, and contact information on you at all times.

And remember to keep your support staff at Northwestern and any affiliated partners updated on all progress and any issues that arise. They should have some good advice to keep you headed in the right direction or get you back on a solid track.

2) How do I introduce myself and my project?

First, keep in mind that introductions abroad tend to be more important than in the states. Warmly greet whoever you're speaking make sure they are clear on who you are and where you are from before diving into any details of the study. When you do get on to the project description, be sure to pause for the information to sink in and to allow time for any clarification to be requested.

3) What things do I need to be aware of for emergency preparations?

An international cell phone with emergency numbers (Northwestern, US embassy, local police) added to contacts is highly recommended. The best precaution is to meet a few 100% reliable people (i.e. NPO staff, referred drivers, Northwestern contacts) abroad and get their contact information in the case you need a trustworthy local to help you out of a bind.