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A small-scale analysis of my personal and academic growth after the completion of a meaningful university course and an on-going training experience.

In this paper, I am reflecting upon my limited experiences after taking a subject titled <<Taller de Redaccion de Informes y Monografias>>, and working at a university research unit as a computer technician. I first begin with what I considered were my initial expectations of the course. I then move on to the first impressions I had to fulfill the expected final requirements to complete the subject. Later I present what the actual definite report writing and oral presentation meant to me both at the personal and the academic levels, after doing some profound retrospection. I conclude with some final remarks.

Initial expectations

The first conception I had formulated of the course, derived from its self-explanatory title <<Taller de Redaccion de Informes y Monografias>> (<<Report and Monograph Composition>> Workshop), was my firm belief that it would have a very theoretical approach and direction. In my mind, I immediately thought of some writing techniques and styles, and grammar rules and standards to comply with. This thought came to the forefront in recollection to a previous course, whose major orientation was the presentation of the commonest methods, modes, and techniques used in bibliographical research and reviews.

I was quite surprised when I first enrolled in this class in the B-semester 2005. The teacher thoroughly explained that the course had been designed and shaped around extremely practical objectives. To me, this was certainly unexpected but interesting. I felt inquisitive on how such a twist was conceived. Although I still believed that the teacher's explanation was snarled at the time, I compassed that the main activity demanded securing some kind of an actual internship, since he persistently mentioned the term <<mini-pasantia>> (expeditious internship). I could not help feeling somewhat apprehensive towards succeeding in such a considerably intense task, in such a short period of time, and in the city of Merida--especially in the context of the Modern Languages degree. Not being able, and not really longing to properly grasp the full concept of the term, I dropped out the course, with the expectation of having the lime to make up my mind for the following semester.

I registered for the class again in the A-Semester 2006. This time, and with a much better attitude towards the course itself, I was eager indeed to accurately fathom the main purpose of the final project--one of the requirement to pass the course. This project consisted of reporting on the information gathering process regarding administrative aspects of a host institution, its organization, its main operations, and finally reflecting on all the activities carried out--a task that will eventually need to be performed during the actual internship period. This is, of course, a much more doable project than I had initially figured out.

First impressions

At first, I had primarily and carefully thought of inquiring and conducting the project at a local institution 'that teaches French, since I considered I had familiarized myself with this place in some way. Regrettably, from the beginning of my inquiry, I was exceedingly disappointed to realize that my probing interests were unwelcome. Every time I went I was constantly referred to visit the institution web page, and told very gently and congenially but very firmly, that all the information I could ever require was in this web site, insinuating--to my perception--at they did not like third parties mingling and delving in their premises.

Since I identified that the continuous query would upset or disturb people or their work, it was therefore unavoidable not to think that going to this place would be useless and counter productive for culling information. I instantly realized that I needed to find some other ways to do so, particularly because the web site was so awfully scanty to fulfill the requirements for the final project. Frustration found its way in after my several failed attempts of assertive negotiations to obtain their spontaneous consent for a one-to-one guided interview and some occasional informative conversations. I later found out that people at the local French institution had had a displeasing experience in the past, precisely on the intent of helping out one student with his internship.

Definite report framework

Soon after this unpleasant realization, I staggered to try to actually complete the project. Interestingly, in a sudden turn of events, a couple of days before the report was due, and following a friend's suggestion, I decided to change the former institution I had in mind for an actual workplace--a crystal clear and obvious idea, but one that I unfortunately missed considering.

The organization I switched to was the Research Center of Foreign Languages (Centro de Investigaciones en Lenguas Extranjeras--CILE), one of the many investigation units at the University of Los Andes, for which I have regularly performed, and still do, Macintosh maintenance tasks and services. Having worked at CILE for the past 8 years, some of the times on a weekly basis, and with an unprecedented sociable and amiable environment, I became conscious that I was already acquainted with most of the information I needed for the project. Because I had developed a trustable and befriended relationship with CILE members, I had attained, instinctively on some occasions and willfully on some others, the suitable information from numerous observations of the organization and its functioning--all this required to write the report. I also gathered more information from a lengthy and productive interview I conducted with one of CILE members. Basically, all that was left to do was the actual reporting on my work experience.

Written report and oral presentation

Perhaps the most difficult aspect for me to figure out was the structure of the written report--how to produce a coherent and well-organized text. Once the train of ideas was established in my mind, most of the writing process was self-paced, except for the time spent on correcting and improving my writing style, plus the necessary proofreading.

I have to acknowledge that having an experience on which to heavily rely and from which I could withdraw information, gave me the essential focus and indispensable confidence to compose the report and its following oral presentation. At this point in time, I was mostly concerned about how to deploy and organize the information as opposed to the feeling I had while trying to construct a consistent text out of the French institution scarce information. It was a total relief to get rid of the feeling of having to create a written text out of thin air, which was quite disturbing to me and was sabotaging my vital and imperative concentration. Needless to say, I was kept incredibly distracted by ubiquitous but inconclusive wondering. I can now honestly express that I spent more time, and eventually felt exceptionally more frustrated, on simply writing the Introduction about the local French organization than on writing the whole bare report on my experiences at CILE.

The oral presentation was even easier since what I had to do was--in essence, summarize the information already presented in written form. Having also been given the idea to follow the course's guidelines and report outline (again, the obvious is the hardest to realize), my oral presentation was, to my understanding, very substantial and well structured--I feel it was indeed a complete success. It is important to stress the pivotal significance and effect that the course's guidelines and report outline can have on people--it did in my case anyway. In this respect, I should point out that these written documents have been underrated, underestimated, and disregarded by most of the students. The guidelines and the outline for the written report are very concise and yet panoramic--these are key features that any written report or oral presentation guidelines should have. Every single part of the guidelines for writing the report is thoroughly and succinctly well explained, having a very persuasive effect on how to structure the report and elucidating what each section specifically consists in--the guidelines leave no room for doubts in any aspect whatsoever, allowing clear and efficient thinking and subsequent writing.

Concluding remarks

In the end the whole experience actually did more than I could have ever foreseen. I meticulously and methodically gained a great deal from a subject that trained me for doing the eventual Internship Final Report. I did not only sense gratification for satisfactorily elaborating the written report and doing the oral presentation, having felt skeptical about carrying out these two from the very beginning of the semester, but I also earned the long-needed certainty and assurance of my working capabilities. Unsurprisingly, I concluded one more rime that I could very well accomplish any task when I finally come to understand the goal and the way to execute what it is being asked of me to do. I also had the startling and thrilling feeling of redeeming myself from a long-term disappointing academic performance, not so much in terms of grades but in terms of my work output. This led to ultimately vanquish the fears and doubts that had grinded my self-confidence during the previous semester. Getting rid of these fears and doubts is perhaps the most invigorating feeling that came out of the whole experience this semester.

In scope of the coming workshops, I felt that the <<mini-pasantia>> term generates a counter-productive ambiguity that hinders the understanding of what is expected of the students--it did in my personal situation, although I finally coped with the meaning of the term. I think this issue needs to be addressed and needs some more consideration on the part of the parties involved. Sadly, I was not the only student to get in a loop of confusion regarding the core of the report, even after grasping the main goals and objectives of the course. It seems that the term induces for some and almost inevitable drift towards the fulfillment of its literal meaning.

I believe that the orientation for information gathering along the course, having the concept of internships only as a context, requires to be asserted through more appropriate and descriptive terms, such as <<internship simulation>> or <<internship flirting,>> to name a couple of examples. The term ought to be formulated in such a way that permeates the idea of an internship only as a reference--not as an end goal or as an activity to perform in itself.

In a broader ken, I think that the workshop may capitalize on and maximize a student's current or past working experience--if any, with its obvious up-to-date information. The course gives a concrete subject to work on and more substance to relate to, making the experience perhaps more realistic and less abstract. The <<simulation,>> or however it might be named, could be an alternative approach for those students who cannot regrettably rely on any real-life experience. It is my genuine and heartfelt hope that these considerations can be taken into account for future semesters.

El Br. Salager es estudiante de la Escuela de Idiomas Modernos de la Facultad de Humanidades y Educacion de la Universidad de Los Andes.

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Title Annotation:Los estudiantes se expresan ...
Author:Salager, Cyril
Publication:Entre Lenguas
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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