Balancing Academics, Work, and Outreach: Life as a WAAW Fellow
Hi Everyone, I’m Evelyn Falaye!
I want to share with you my amazing experience as a WAAW Fellow, how I manage to juggle my studies with work, running outreach programs, and crucial advice that has guided me along the way. I am not doing this alone; two other fellows have joined in, and we’re all sharing our experiences.
Let’s dive right in!
About the WAAW Foundation
Let’s start by discussing the WAAW Foundation’s mission. The foundation is dedicated to breaking the cycle of inequality in the education of girls in STEM by providing scholarships, mentorship, and outreach programs that promote access to quality STEM education and career opportunities. The WAAW Foundation provides a one-time annual scholarship to women in Africa pursuing courses in STEM related fields. This program provides an opportunity for African women to pursue higher education in STEM fields. I was fortunate to be selected as a 2023 WAAW Foundation Scholar, and I can’t wait to make an impact.
Balancing it all out
It has been a challenging and educational experience to serve as the STEM cell leader for OOUTH (Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sagamu Campus), a STEM cell of the WAAW Foundation. The experience has helped me demonstrate leadership and has also taught me many things about multitasking, which is definitely a necessary skill as a student and also a volunteer. Here’s how I manage to keep everything balanced and produce maximum results in everything I do.
First and foremost, studies!
As a WAAW Scholar, I have various responsibilities and commitments, but one of the key aspects of being a WAAW Scholar is prioritizing my academics. The foundation seeks to empower women in STEM, and I like to think of my bit in the mission as being a successful woman in STEM, and that has a lot to do with succeeding successfully in my academics. Here’s my secret to prioritizing the academic aspect of my life.
- Create a study schedule
- Set clear goals: Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and create milestones for that vision to make it easier.
- Eliminate distractions: When it’s study time, then it’s study time. Keep away all distractions and focus.
- Give yourself breaks and celebrate victories: It’s not all work dear, have time to just think.
- Find a time management technique that works for you.
Everyone’s study habits are different, how you find a way to balance it all out is entirely up to you because in the end, it’s all the same result. Experiment with different strategies, reflect on what brings you the most success and adapt your study routine accordingly. Just have in mind that the WAAW Foundation’s mission is to empower you, so play your cards right!
Efficient Work-Life Balance
Apart from academics, I also have work commitments. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is critical. I maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting specific time slots for work and using them effectively for that purpose alone.
It’s very important that a line be drawn between work, studies, and my personal life. Although, it seems like a tasking feat and virtually a very thin line I try as much as possible to separate all three by setting boundaries and learning to say no when necessary, which are vital skills for managing these different aspects of my life. Remember, achieving a healthy work-life balance is an ongoing process that requires conscious effort and self-care. By implementing these tips and finding what works best for you, you can create a fulfilling and balanced life where work and personal well-being coexist harmoniously.
Planning outreach is an important aspect of being a WAAW scholar and fellow. It’s a significant way of giving back to society and making an impact. Planning outreach activities as the STEM cell leader is certainly not an easy commitment. So how exactly do we manage to successfully conduct one?
- Leverage the team you have and assign roles
- Communicate effectively the purpose of the outreach, define the objectives
- Create a schedule that matches everyone’s availability
- Give the project a timeline e.g. reach out to secondary schools, outreach practice sessions with the team, etc.
- Plan the content and activities
- Arrange logistics
Planning ahead is crucial for a successful outreach event. This method eliminates all hassles and creates a stress-free environment during outreach because everyone is well aware of their roles. By considering these steps, you can also create an impactful and memorable outreach experience.
Planning and organizing my schedule in advance has been a game-changer. It helps me stay on top of my commitments and ensures I have time for everything. There are various methods of time management that you could implement, but I personally use the journal method. I have a book where I write down things I have to do at the start of the day and allocate time for each task.
Another method is the Pomodoro technique;
Ifeoluwa, my friend and fellow at OOUTH STEM Cell, uses this technique, and it works well for her.
What’s the Pomodoro technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves breaking your work into intervals, usually 25 minutes of focused work followed by a short break. This technique can greatly enhance your productivity and focus. Here’s how you can incorporate it into your routine:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on a specific task without any distractions.
- Once the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break to relax, stretch, or do a quick activity.
- Repeat this cycle four times, and after completing four Pomodoros, take a longer break, typically around 15–30 minutes.
The Pomodoro Technique helps you maintain productivity while preventing burnout and mental fatigue. It can be particularly beneficial when balancing your academics, work, and outreach activities.
Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial. You cannot conduct an outreach to young children and not be physically or mentally fine. Always take time out for yourself; have some “me time”.
Find time for your quirks—things that make you stand out as “you”, things that bring out your calm and serene self, things that make you laugh and cry from laughing! Here are some things you could try:
- Watch a movie
- Visit a virtual city online
- Set up your own Karaoke and sing like no one’s watching
- Dress Up and take some pictures
- Read a book
- Exercise and meditate
Maintaining a healthy mental and physical life is essential, so I make sure to prioritize self-care activities like exercise, relaxation, and spending time with loved ones.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone on this journey. I am big on leveraging people for the success of what I do and, at the same time, adding value to these people so I can build sustainable relationships. I lean on my support network, whether it’s family, friends, or fellow WAAW Scholars, for guidance, motivation, and assistance when needed.
Whenever you have an idea, share it with your team, friends, or people of like-minded spirits who will definitely have input on how to make the idea better. At my cell, we’re all a team, and every result we produce is based on everyone’s effort. This also encourages interactiveness; getting input from your fellows shows that every decision made is a collaborative effort, not just one person’s. To promote this, foster a supportive and interactive relationship with other fellows by encouraging questions, discussions, and peer collaboration. This helps build greater ideas and get more work done. Remember, two heads are better than one!
Ifeoluwa says: As a WAAW fellow, I have the opportunity to teach and mentor others, which is a wonderful way to give back and make a positive impact. And a great way for me to remember what I have read. This greatly helps me get better at my studies.
As a WAAW Foundation fellow, you have not only the opportunity to empower others but also yourself.
Now that’s food for thought. How can I empower myself as a WAAW Foundation fellow?
The WAAW Outreach Program provides an opportunity for continuous learning. At our chapter, we usually research experiments, topics, and theories to introduce to the young girls we teach and mentor. You have a community of like-minded fellows from different countries across Africa to network, collaborate, share ideas, and build meaningful connections. This can open doors to new opportunities and foster personal growth. It’s also a great opportunity to slip into a leadership role. It can be tasking—yes! But it’s a great way to engage in team projects, cultivate your leadership skills, and make an impact.
Remember, empowering yourself is a continuous journey. Be proactive, embrace opportunities, and believe in your potential to make a difference. By taking charge of your growth and development as a WAAW fellow, you can create a lasting impact in your own life and the lives of others.
Being a WAAW Scholar has been an incredible experience, and I’m grateful for the opportunities it has provided me. Balancing academics, work, conducting outreaches, and implementing essential tips has allowed me to thrive in all aspects of my life. Remembering that finding a balance between academics, work, conducting outreach, and teaching is an ongoing process, we take it one step at a time. I hope that sharing my journey with two other fellows here in our STEM cell has inspired you and given you some valuable insights.
Hey, there Change-Maker,
Support the WAAW Foundation Scholarship Program by making a donation. Your support will provide scholarships for deserving African girls to pursue their STEM studies at reputable universities and colleges. These scholarships cover tuition fees, textbooks, and other essential resources, ensuring that no talented mind is left behind due to financial constraints.