One thing that I found very challenging at my practicum was learning a completely new computer software, which I will be using to analyze the air pollution data. Within the first week I was told to learn this program in 2 days and was just given an instruction manual. This was a bit challenging in the beginning since I had no exposure or familiarity with the program at all, and I didn’t quite understand what I would be doing with the program. The program I was told to learn is called “R”, which can be used for data manipulation, calculations, and graphical representation of data. The specific package in “R” I was using is called the Open Air Package. The first 2 days I just flipped through the manual to try to understand a programming language, I did a lot of research on my own through YouTube video tutorials, and reading the manual to understand what each command does. The script itself in “R” is not that difficult, the hard part is finding the best way to display or analyze your data for the specific question you want to answer.I overcame this obstacle by using all the resources available (YouTube, online websites, manual) as well as asking the other students around me who previously used this program. After learning the functions of this program I know this skill will be really useful in the future, especially for air monitoring data.
Another challenge I encountered was language barrier. I noticed this the most in Yulin County, where my project site is, because local residents in more rural or Southern areas of Taiwan usually speak Taiwanese. I can’t understand a single bit of Taiwanese, so it was a little difficult communicating to the families there to understand the living conditions. There were other students there who can understand Taiwanese, so all I had to do was ask if they could explain what was going on. In addition, during the class I took, the majority was in Chinese, so it was a little hard to understand all the technical terms when talking about the Public Health field. For the challenges I faced during my practicum, all I had to do was ask. Sometimes just simply asking a question can resolve the problem. There is no right or wrong question, especially when it comes to understanding something.