4th December, Emily Tran
Working today with the group was long but very interesting. Over the course of the past few days, I've learned a lot about not only water resource management but about myself as an American and as an Israeli representitive in the program. It's a strange feeling being considered an “Israeli” by the Wetskills program, as these past six months I have been in the country, my American-ness has been put into intense contrast to the Israelis that surround me. Now that I am working with students studying the same concepts from other parts of the world, I am realizing just how much this culture has rubbed off on me. I find myself loving the black coffee served during the coffee breaks which I have yet to see a Dutch student drinking, and joyfully explaining all the little intricacies of Israeli culture that were foreign to me only 6 months ago. I've enjoyed locating a site for our project and actually having a picture in my head of where we are working and how the daily life there contributes to the success of the project.
At the same time, it's easy to see how being somewhat “from” this country can also be in the way of coming up with innovative solutions to local problems, as my first thoughts about how to deal with a certain situation are the ones that have been taught to me. I spent so much time studying case studies at first- what has been done and how can we apply that to our solution. That's where the Dutch students have been amazingly helpful- they don't know where the water treatment plants are, where the tourists go or what the local species of trees are. They do know what works in other countries- what makes a project self-sustainable and brings in income rather than just serving the purpose of planting a forest for the sake of a forest existing.
In the end I've started to understand collaboration in the scientific community a bit better. Normally we all work on our own projects, write our own theses, take a few pointers from our advisors and go on our own way, but it's been a good opportunity to try something different. Understanding where we are from and how our backgrounds present us with strengths and weaknesses in the work that we do is often a hard thing to remember, and occasionally we all need a bit of a reminder of how we know the things that we know to figure out a solution to a problem. Are we just saying something because that's what we have always been told, or are we truly something up with something unique?