I’m going to take us back in time a bit. Two months ago, I was living in a world of coding. I would wake up in the morning convinced I had solved the problem with my header in my dreams and I would go to sleep counting divs and rows. This was winter term. This was the fly-in project.
The fly-in project consist of two different experiences. During the first 7 to 10 days on winter term, in groups of 6 or 7, we flew out to a foreign country to work with a local business or non-profit. We spent those days getting to know the people, learn about the culture, and gather all of the information and content we would need to build a fully-functioning website. The final two and a half weeks were spent editing, refining ideas, and building the final product.
I traveled to the Dominican Republic, where my group and I worked with Hogar de los Ancianos and Centro de Salud Club de Leones. The facility provides low cost medical care and free nursing home facilities for the underprivileged in the town of Cotuí. We spent our time interviewing the staff, photographing the facilities, and brainstorming ways to bring the culture of Cotuí into their website. We spent an amazing week in the Dominican Republic and topped in off with an excursion to 27 Charcos (waterfalls).
Our group spent a day settling back in before jumping into development. We spent the next two and a half weeks, including most of the weekends, working with all of the skills we developed during the fall semester. We each had our individual roles but we came together twice a day to check progress, critique media, and check off task on our burn down list.
It was our first taste of what the real world would be like. Working with a client was a new experience for many of us and it came with its own set of challenges that we learned to work with. For the first time in the program, we weren’t designing for ourselves. We had to find the layout, aesthetics, and content that met our client’s needs and their satisfaction. Monique Lewis, my team’s graphic designer, came up with nearly 50 different logos before our team came to agreement, only to have the client ask for something else completely. I placed quotes found from within the nursing home throughout our website only to learn that our translation was incorrect. The time frame also presented a set of challenges where we had to walk the line between getting the project done and satisfying the client. For many of the groups, we were still making changes after the final presentation.
The entire winter term was a unique and challenging experience. From the actual fly-in to the weeks of development and production back at Elon, I learned so much about myself as a web developer and how I would work in the real world. Everyone in the program stretched and tested our skills and grew within our selected fields. Now, as we prepare for the job search and interviews, we all have an experience to talk about and share with employers the benefits of our real world experience.