Being a field coordinator is an incredibly unique, rewarding opportunity, but (like all things in life) there are a few difficulties that come with the job. We gathered our field coordinators together to write about the five things they find most challenging about their jobs.
It’s hot out here. Like, really hot. Temperatures usually hover around the 90s and can even go into the 100s, which might be ok if it were all dry heat but add humidity and some days you never even want to go outside! The heat isn’t temporary, either; the faster you resign yourself to it, the more you might be able to withstand the never-ending heat wave. If you’re from a cool or temperate climate, prepare yourself.
It’s not just the heat, though! The sun’s rays are extremely strong and bright here. It’s tough to stay outside for long amounts of time without sunscreen, sunglasses, and light, breathable clothes or else
you’ll get a nasty sunburn.
The food is amazing, no doubt about it. The ingredients in most dishes are so fresh and ripe and bursting with flavor! However, some of the seasonings and spices the locals use might be too strong and unexpected for people with sensitive palates.
Additionally, it is more difficult for people following certain dietary restrictions; for example, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you might find it challenging to eat with complete peace of mind daily unless you shop at the more upscale supermarkets. Produce, vegetables, and meats at the outdoor markets may not come from farms with the same level of regulations as in many Western nations so it’s usually buyer beware.
The Language Barrier
The way you’ll think of the simple act of subconsciously understanding the idle chatter of people around you will change completely when you move to live in a foreign country. Though you can get by with a certain hybrid of your limited language skills and English, after awhile it becomes challenging—ordering food a certain way, trying to get something copied at the local copy shop, and trying to resolve a misunderstanding with a local—simple daily matters suddenly take more creative thinking than usual. You will never take the friendly chatter you had with your barista or grocery store employees back at home for granted again! Though there is definitely joy in achieving a new level of conversation with the staff at your favorite restaurant, it’s common (and ok!) to get frustrated or think wistfully about the spontaneous conversations you could easily jump into back at home without having the vocabulary level of an elementary school student.
Maintaining a Double Life
We have to maintain a certain distance from the people around us in case they start asking too many questions. We always have a good cover story prepared to deflect any suspicion on our activities, just in case. This may prove challenging for people that are natural extroverts and love meeting new people. This can also affect how FCs out here form romantic relationships as well.
This just means that field staff is super close, however! We are like a small family and make sure to go out and do a lot of recreational activities that are not work related to help us balance our working and “outside” lives.
Being away from Friends, Family, and Community
Homesickness can happen out here as one of the consequences of living abroad away from friends and family. FCs can use their personal time however they want and we strongly suggest finding any way possible to keep in touch with loved ones. However, digital communication can never replace the real thing and we fully understand that! We do encourage our staff to find ways to channel those emotions into other activities that will help them cope—this can include exercising, sightseeing, or another hobby or activity that you can do regularly to stave off those feelings.
Though it may sound daunting to some, life as an FC is incredibly rewarding and enduring these challenges only makes you grow and mature more. No matter what kind of day, week, or month we’ve been having, our field team knows that we have a support network of friends and family back home, other LiNK staff, and each other to help us weather the tough days. And at the end of the day, seeing the smiles of the refugees we help makes everything totally worth it.