Me, EDI and Tanzania: My first month at EDI
While I am writing this, it is already passed my first month at EDI and I have just come back from my first field trip in Tanzania where I experienced working, for the first time, on an EDI project with the guidance of the Project Manager. For me, coming from Italy and directly from my master’s, it is a completely new experience – the excitement of living in a new country, the challenge of starting a job in a different environment than university. However, after my first weeks at EDI, I already think that joining EDI has been the best choice ever after completing my studies – it means doing the job that I like, exceptionally tailored for my academic background and experience, but also field work in East Africa, a great opportunity of growing professionally, friendly international working environment and living the London life.
My background is in Economics, having earned my Bachelor’s in Economics and Social Sciences at Università Bocconi in Milano, Italy. After this, I decided to continue with an MSc in the same field, focusing my studies mainly in quantitative methods and impact evaluation. During my studies, I developed a strong passion in impact evaluation techniques applied to development topics, especially in the field of Regional, Urban and Environmental Economics. I have to say that the choice to be involved in on-the-field development research has not been automatic and straightforward for me, but the conscious result of a long and reasoned process. I think that everything started back at the first year of my master’s, when I had to find a curricular internship. I remember that one day, scrolling through all the internship opportunities, I spotted a position for a research internship at BRAC, in Uganda. I am quite a curious person, very open minded, I love travelling and being exposed to new cultures and different contexts. Therefore, I thought “Why not? It is worth a try!”.
I applied for the position and, two months after that day, I was already on a plane to Entebbe. That’s how all it started.
I worked on a project about microcredit issues: we were studying the effect of flexibility in financial contracts for small businesses in poor and disadvantaged areas. I dealt with data cleaning and analysis of everything that was arriving from the field – it was a great chance for me to enhance my Stata knowledge applied to the management of large datasets. Moreover, I was lucky enough not just to sit in the office all the time, in front of a screen, but also to travel a lot to the field. I remember quite well being alone with my Boda in a remote village in the way to Luwero (Boda-Bodas are motorbike taxis that are ubiquitous in Uganda) collecting papers from a dusty storeroom, together with the local staff of a remote BRAC branch. I got to learn the way how local staff worked, how things work there, getting familiar with local customs, beliefs and approaches to problems.
The moment in which I realised that after my graduate studies I wanted to continue to do some field work in developing countries was the moment in which I stepped off the plane that was bringing me back to Italy after the end of my internship. I wanted to come back sooner rather than later. It was almost a coincidence, but as soon I realised what I wanted to do after my graduate studies, I spotted the open position at EDI, calling for a position of Assistant Research Officer. Going through the job description, there was everything that I imagined doing after my graduation – quantitative research in Development Economics, together with field work in East Africa. But why EDI? I chose EDI because of its great reputation given by its commitment in high-quality data for development projects. What I learnt throughout my academic experiences is that the quality of the dataset you deal with is a crucial factor for the effectiveness of your research. You can have the best and most brilliant model in mind but, if you lack high-quality data, it’s difficult to produce some evidence that can really effect policies and change the life of people living in the poorest part of the world. Moreover, what drove me to apply for the position at EDI was its close and collaborative relation with the countries in which it operates – I am convinced that, to provide high-quality data, you need to ask questions in a proper way. This task can be done only if you have a deep knowledge of the country in which you are working, understanding local cultures, customs and habits. EDI’s mission to deliver high-quality data for development projects, together with its strong presence in-loco, was exactly the challenge I was looking for. Therefore, I decided to send my application for the position.
I could never have imagined that an application sent without too many expectations could drive me here, in the beautiful surroundings of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. But above all, who could have ever thought that already at the end of the induction programme, I would have already been back on a plane to East Africa.
Back where all it started, happy of my choice and willing to learn and enjoy the most from this awesome experience.