What's the biggest challenge you see the students facing in Albania?


Robert Hersh: In some cases, they're homesick. Sometimes they find being in a different environment or listening to a different language difficult. Some students from rural areas are surprised to find how busy a city like Tirana is and they find it is exhausting. On the very emotional level of student need, it can be challenging, but we, as advisors, are attuned to these challenges and we have opportunities to talk with them about how to handle these issues. Perhaps most fascinating challenges are those related to things they hadn’t anticipated. There are no right answers to the problems—the data they think they can get oftentimes hasn't been collected or is not in the form they can use—and the projects change between when they came up with a project idea and when they are at the project center. They have to show incredible flexibility in the face of these changing projects.

Another challenge encountered at all project centers is figuring out the differences between what the sponsors might want and what we advisors want. Sometimes there's a research question we'd like them to approach in a rigorous way but the sponsor wants something more applied and practical—both are important to any project. The students become more sophisticated in how they satisfy the requirements set by their advisor in terms of what is an appropriate academic outcome and what might be useful for a sponsor. By the end of seven weeks they typically understand that, but it's still a big challenge.