Monday, August 3, 2015

Week 7: I am taking a Leave of Absence in the Fall!

* I received a question of how my parents responded to my interest in taking an LOA. The additional information of their reactions and role in this process is written in blue. 

My decision to take a leave of absence (LOA) for the Fall semester 2015:
As many of you are aware, I have summer internship in India working with a social venture called ayzh that focuses on infection prevention and promoting best practices in labor and delivery, as well as infant care, in order to improve women’s health and livelihood.

I have been working on the development of the newborn kit and have also become involved with some of ayzh's research by helping write a research proposal, beginning a mini-study on women's perceptions of the clean birth kit and doing a literature review for ayzh’s monitoring and evaluation work. So far, my experience with ayzh has been great because I have stimulating work, I have been well-taken care of, and I love the people I am working with. Because ayzh is small, I know my work carries significant responsibility. For example, who lets an intern sit-in on really important meetings? Who lets an intern begin a mini-study? I want to stay to continue my current work!

Zubaida and Habib, founders of ayzh, have informed me that I would be valuable for ayzh in the Fall to continue my work on the newborn kit, research and impact evaluation. I realized that I definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity! The leave of absence means that that I will not be at Olin in the Fall to continue working with ayzh. 

Deciding to take an LOA was a difficult decision that I have been thinking about for about past 4-6 weeks. The idea first hit me after a couple days with Sanjukta in Banaglore where I thought, “wow! I really love what I did today! Could I somehow continue?”. Then, I met Zubaida and Habib and had more instances of “wow! I really love this,” as well as “I am learning a lot!”

Of course, I have been discussing this decision with my parents throughout this process. When I first presented my interest in taking an LOA, my father responded, “what?! I don’t think this is a good idea” my mother said, “Gosh Kelly, really? Are you sure you want to consider this?” They were both very concerned about how an LOA would impact my education at Olin with graduation, the scholarship. At the end of our first conversation, I asked them to think about it as I investigate whether or not ayzh would allow me to stay and Olin would allow me to take an LOA. I think that my parents thought it would be too late to request an LOA from Olin and that an LOA would not even be feasible. My parents were very apprehensive about me taking an LOA because of how it would affect my education at Olin, but open to the idea because they are very supportive of the work I am doing.

The next time we talked happened to be on my birthday. I did not bring up the topic then because I was afraid would be sensitive, but we did continue the discussion the following day. By this time I had confirmed that ayzh would appreciate me staying in the fall and I knew to contact Alison Black to get started in figuring out if an LOA was even possible and how to request one. My parents became more supportive as we continued our discussion. I realized that we even had similar concerns about my educational path. 

Overtime, I began to feel that taking an LOA would not be a good idea. Will I continue to enjoy my work for an extended period of time? Is taking a break from my school studies a good idea? How will this impact my studies when I return to school? Will I remember how to “do school” when I get back? Will I feel out of place graduating in December 2017 instead of June 2017?

I expressed my situation and concerns with my professors Oscar and Ben. They recognized that an LOA with ayzh was a very unique opportunity because of the combination of:
  •  Good, stimulating work with a diversity of projects (newborn kit, research, monitoring an evaluation, & whatever else needs to be done)
  • Great people who have come to love
  •  The small size of the organization which really allows me to be directly involved and learn

Ben and Oscar helped me recognize that I was scared of the uncertainty with taking an LOA and it was holding me back.

My parents accepted and began to see the value of an LOA once I told them about my conversation with Ben and Oscar where they encouraged me to take the opportunity. With my professors’ encouragement and my parent’s support, I finally gathered the courage to officially decide LOA! I have received positive responses from Olin. I feel very thankful to have the support of my college and family! After receiving my academic advisor’s support and contacting the school, Olin has accepted my LOA request and it is official! J 

Even though I am taking an LOA, I return to Seattle mid-day on Wednesday, Aug. 12th! I plan to be home for about 3 weeks. I will return to India in Mid-September and come back to Seattle mid-December!

Monday and Tuesday, July 27 - 28th 2015: I spent a lot of time figuring out the logistics of my LOA with my parents and Olin.

Wednesday, July 29th 2015: In the evening, everyone went to a nearby hotel to have dinner together and watch the IDDS talent show! It was great socializing! I felt that I was able to get know many of the participants and organizers better. The talent show was quite also entertaining. We had dance performances from India and Costa Rica, an IDDS parody of the song Rather Be, head stands, etc., After the talent show, we all danced, danced & danced! I loved dancing to so many different kinds of international music!
A few participants and I exploring the hotel
Who's got talent?!
 Thursday, July 30th 2015: I spent the day helping organize and prepare for participant’s final presentations. I ended up writing Habib’s closing speech for the presentations and helping him prepare. Who knew that I would ever become a speech writer? Lol!

Friday, July 31st 2015: The final event went well! It was great to see the participants present their hard work with such passion on stage! In the evening, I had a really great time just hanging out on the patio in front of the dorms with the participants and organizers to unwind. We played games, talked, danced and watched the stars.
IDDS Final Presentations are over!
 Saturday, Aug. 1st 2015: Everyone spent the day packing and cleaning up after the event. It’s been hard to say good-bye to the participants and organizers, especially because I do not leave until next week.

That moment when you are in a foreign country and your credit card expires… Good thing I withdrew a enough rupees to get me through Aug. 11th.

Upcoming this week:

I will be leaving the university campus on Tuesday to return to the women’s hotel in Chennai. I don’t know what I will be doing this week, but I look forward to attending Zubaida’s sister’s wedding on Sunday, Aug. 9th!

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