advice to students visiting a developing country for the first time

Tyler Cohen and then Chris Blattman offer some great advice to aspiring researchers visiting poor countries.  I endorse their comments and can add little, but here’s the little.  (The above is some of the finest street food I’ve had recently, in Sierra Leone: if I can see you cook it, I’ll eat it.)

  1. Attend a religious service if you have the opportunity.  In many of the countries I work in, religiosity is much higher than in the USA and so experiencing this can be very revealing.
  2. Buy and read a local newspaper.
  3. Even short of learning the local language (which is excellent advice but not always realistic for a short visit), make the effort to learn greetings and simple phrases in local language(s) [not just the colonial language].  This garners an immense amount of good will and can open doors.
  4. Buy a good map of the country and ask people where they are from. 

Oh, and don’t accept soda on a bus, don’t walk around downtown Nairobi early in the morning, don’t walk around the bus station in Aruba at night, don’t leave love letters lying around your hotel room…

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