As I have hinted at previously in class, I deeply enjoy conducting interviews. They are an opportunity to hear another perspective at length, to give a voice to someone whose thoughts you are invested in hearing. They’re a chance to have an invigorating conversation in which you do as little of the talking as possible—a joy for an introvert like me.
Needless to say, then, conducting the oral history interviews was by far my favorite aspect of this course. To be able to listen intently to the stories, experiences, hopes, and ideas of two individuals the likes of whom I had never encountered before was simply awe-inspiring (and paid off in a practical way, too, when one of them invited me over for Easter dinner afterwards). I was better able to hone my skills as an interviewer in this process as I continually tested how to ask the right questions at the right times, and to otherwise simply allow the one speaking to do just that—speak.
Writing the narrative pages was my next most appreciated activity. While writing always involves some degree of interpretation, no matter how skilled the author, I nonetheless enjoyed the opportunity to, as objectively as possible, listen to the conversations I had over again and to select what seemed to me the most salient points—the highs and lows, the hopes, hindrances, and helps that my new friends experience in their lives in the United States. The “three H’s” around which we organized our narratives provided a fun storytelling tool while also permitting us to represent a broad range of what was said, from negative to positive, on a broad range of topics, from education and work to community building and the political situation of the DRC.
When it came to building the website, a few challenges arose that necessitated deviating from the original version of the contract. While we originally hoped to include an ArcGIS map, we quickly had to change from this course, as we learned that this is in fact not the same thing as a StoryMap, which is the format we had been hoping for. We were able to switch to this format, which Megan utilized with great success. Megan also compiled a phenomenal Google Slides presentation on the process behind the Diversity Visa.
I also used a Google Slides presentation to give a briefing on the relevant political and historical background of the DRC which is important for the viewer to keep in mind when listening to our population’s interviews. While we originally hoped to use VideoPad for this information, I quickly found that I had considerable difficulty working that software, due to the fact that I’ve not received formal instruction in it. Luckily, Professors Donaldson and Bettencourt talked us through this in our conference, where we decided that Google Slides would be the way to go.
In the end, I’m very glad for the local connections I built while working on this project. What I learned above all is that it takes intentional connections for a community to fully come together and integrate in solidarity, and in learning this, I was at the start of doing just that.