Preparing to Be Unprepared – Part II

Posted on behalf of Liz Timoszyk


Community Health Assessment Team with Hidalgo County Health Department Staff

After a day of travel on Sunday and an orientation with the Chief Administrative Officer and personnel of the Hidalgo County Health Department on Monday, we were itching to get underway with our project by Tuesday. Our team was tasked with survey collection on a local college campus. Armed with practiced lines and various approach strategies, we set out to gather a goal of 450 surveys in 2.5 days. Back home, my experiences with survey collection in Ann Arbor have not been a positive one, as students are so tired of being asked survey questions that they (myself included) avoid the interviewer at great lengths. However, after a few hours in a cool, shady part of the campus, I quickly realized something about the students—they were much more open to taking the survey than we had expected. In fact, if a student was unable to take a survey because of class or a meeting, they would apologize at length before continuing on with their day. This was a sharp contrast to my experiences in Ann Arbor, where an apology would be an anomaly. It was refreshing to experience students being so kind and polite to us as we asked them to spend 15 minutes completing a 10-page survey. I had been worried they would recognize me as an “outsider” in their community and not want anything to do with me. I had been worried our experience asking for surveys would be an uphill battle, as it is in Ann Arbor. I had been prepared to experience these situations, and yet I hadn’t needed those notions at all. This highlighted an important aspect of entering an unfamiliar community—you really won’t know what to expect until you are there; you can really only be prepared to be unprepared.



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