I'm going to start off this post by highlighting the most important difference between me and the many snow-ridden posts before me: It's summer here! We went to the beach last weekend!
I'm checking in from the sunny São Paulo, Brazil. In case you missed my last post, I'm here with four other Olin students, taking a leave of absence to work at a university called Insper to help develop their new engineering school.
Our job here is multi-faceted: we act as harbingers of Olin's culture, and figure out how to adjust it to improve it for a new iteration, but also to make it fit within Insper's constraints. For example, we're acting as NINJAs in several of the first-semester courses that have just started. But NINJAing here is very different from at Olin, and not just because of the language barrier. Insper students don't live at school - every evening they go home to their family or to their apartment. However, at Olin, one of the ways NINJAs are different from, say, TAs, is that the NINJAs are your peers. The great thing about them is that they can be a close friend, or even someone that you help in a different class. They live in the same buildings as you, and they're available late at night when the professors aren't, and you can talk to them when you need to.
So it's a difficult challenge to figure out how we can preserve the informal peer teaching aspect of NINJAing in the new environment here. And the coolest part is, we'll be working on that, improving our roles as NINJAs, and hopefully creating an environment that will facilitate learning and peer teaching even after we leave in June.
Besides NINJAing, we're working alongside the professors to develop curricula for the coming semesters. This is an exciting job that involves prototyping labs and lesson plans to see how everything connects. Insper's courses are a little more overlapping than those at Olin. For example, the ModSim that's running this first semester will be different from Olin's version, because at Insper, ModSim won't teach coding. Students will learn Python programming in their Software Design class, and then will use that knowledge to implement their ModSim models. It's less modular, because each course has to work for the whole curriculum to work, but with more space for underlying themes to tie all the classes together in a semester.
Overall, we're here to figure out what parts of Olin we can bring to Insper, what parts can be changed, and even what parts of Insper we can bring back to Olin. It's already a busy schedule, and then you throw in learning Portuguese, taking a business class, social events, exploring the city, trips, and more - we have a busy life! But it's a refreshing break from classes that allows me to be a little more introspective into my own education and what changes I can make when I return to Olin.