I’ve been working on my undergraduate research since September 2014 when I started writing my research proposal. After months of revisions, ethics approval, and bureaucracy battles with the government of Botswana, I finally began my data collection a couple of weeks ago. What have I learned since then? Research is hard!
I’ll admit I knew it was going to be hard from the start. I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I knew things wouldn’t always go my way. … But I’ll also admit I thought things would go a little more smoothly than they have so far. Frustratingly, there have been so many bumps along the way.
Most recently, I’ve had issues accessing my research sample, secondary students between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. I specifically designed my research so I’d be interacting with students during ‘down-time’ in their scholarly schedule. Since January is the beginning of a new term, the students aren’t as busy with exams and projects as they were in November and December.
But while they aren’t busy with school, I’ve still had trouble getting enough time with them to complete surveys let alone get some interviews in! There’s always something else going on that mucks up my research schedule. I’ve had situations where schools have double-booked their students, situations where the teacher I’m working with isn’t around on our agreed meeting day, and even sticky situations with disorganized administration, when schools I’ve been working with for the past three weeks to set up a meeting with their students forgot to tell the right people I’d be coming, resulting in chaos or rescheduling.
Since I am now into my last week of placement in Botswana, data collection is now in full crunchtime mode. I have some data now and I should be collecting more over the next few days. The truth is, though, that it just might not be enough. It’s hard to admit that all this work has culminated into such a whirlwind but I’m working on focusing on this experience as a time of growth instead of a time of disappointment. I might as well find the silver lining because I can’t change anything now.
All I can do is my best. I can work as hard as I can to get as much done as I can. And then I can take what I’ve learned from this experience to become better for the future. For example, I’ve learned how best to liaise with government institutions and educators. And I’ve learned to become even more of a self-starter, to advocate for my needs when no one else will. I’ve also learned that I need to let things go when they don’t go my way, especially since the roadblocks I’ve run into along the way are out of my control.
There are only five more working days left of my placement, which means there are only five more research days as well. Fingers crossed the worst of the challenges are behind me but, realistically, I’m sure I’ll be flexing my problem solving muscles this week too to get things done. Wish me luck!