From Addis Ababa to the University of Alberta

From Addis Ababa to the University of Alberta
November 15, 2017

Allison Soprovich

I was a CSIH intern in 2006-2007, based in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. I worked for the Ethiopian Nurses Association (ENA) – partner of Canadian Nurses Association – and got only a glimpse of nursing and nursing education in Ethiopia.

ENA was a very small but welcoming organization – the president even met me at the airport.

From the very beginning I learned the importance of being realistic. Though my original work objective and job description were provided, I had to work with ENA towards more realistic activities, goals and timelines. The internet was patchy, sometimes the electricity too, so communication was a constant challenge. Despite the difficulties, I discovered I was efficient in project proposals and leading team meetings.

Living in Ethiopia was a big part of the whole CSIH experience. I knew very little of the country before I went, especially of the cooler climate compared to other African countries. I had to do some emergency sweater and pyjama shopping! I was very eager to get out of the city and see as much of the country as I could on the weekends and holidays. Most of my fondest memories are of weekend getaways and local travel for work. I managed to rent a car frequently and visit some remote and secluded communities; which sometimes led to other new experiences for me, such as running out of gas.

My learning and experience went far beyond my assigned project. I met some great people, both Ethiopian and other ex-pats. I loved the food and got to know the Orthodox calendar well since the fasting vegetarian meals were my favourite. I also indulged in local textiles and art, including their well-known scarves and blankets. I definitely came home with more than I brought.

My CSIH experience in Ethiopia led me to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree in Global Health at the University of Alberta upon my return. I believe I was a successful candidate and student because of my previous experience, including the CSIH internship. As part of the program, I was required to do a field practicum at the end. Due to my previous experience in Ethiopia and clinical background, I was considered for a World Health Organization consultancy position through the Canadian Public Health Association. I traveled to Rwanda as part of STOP 33, an immunization task-force led by the WHO and CDC.

Though I choose to work and live in Canada now, my overseas experiences constantly remind me of the importance of meeting people where they’re at. I enjoy making connections with people and realize the importance of engaging end-users and the community at each stage of any project -- helping all stakeholders find their voice and participate. All of this has strengthened my contribution to my current research team.