Written by Hiba Haddad (one of the students who took this course)

In Summer 2019 (July 21-August 14), BEST sent six students to the EDC program in Ethiopia. Putting the time I spent in EDC 2019 into words is very challenging as anything I would say would not do the experience I had any justice. Coming back from the program, I kept telling people that it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and it’s true. This experience was not just a course to me – I didn’t choose to participate just for the credits, but it was an opportunity to make a real positive change in the world and EDC was the beginning of this journey. Participating in this program has showed me what real diversity looks like; being in a room full of people from different cultures, ethnicities, religions, countries, educational backgrounds, and social classes. None of these differences mattered because that room was a safe space for all of us, and we were all there for the same goal, which is to learn from each other and try and make the world a better place, and despite all these differences, there was one thing in common in all of us which brought us together: Humanity.

The main goal of the course was to conduct interviews with local members of village communities to learn more about their lifestyle and some challenges they might face on a daily basis. The staff members prepared the students during the first two weeks of the course before we head off into the last week to the field to conduct the interviews. During these first couple of weeks, we got to know each other better by participating in team building exercises and we took lectures on sustainable development and learned about the history, social structure, gender issues and health issues in Ethiopia. We were also provided with a few surveying techniques and research methods that would help us analyze the data gathered from the field.

Overall, I recommend this course to all engineering students, despite your discipline, since this is not your usual lecture-exam based course, but it focuses more on hands-on experience and your intention of being there (which is to understand and work with community members rather than assert your ideas/solutions onto them). We had the chance to go on trips, hikes, and even treasure hunts that helped us understand the culture and the city better. This course is an ideal opportunity to meet new people, learn a whole new meaning to what ‘Engineering’ could be and what sustainability is, and understand how different Engineering principles could be utilized in the context of sustainable development.