Short Term Missions

Long term international missions (a year or more in the same place, doing the same work) provide time to learn. Short ones compound steep learning curves with jet lag; no local network; banking, visa and travel uncertainties; security questions and the awkward fact that there is no time to get sick or make mistakes.

The ideas and tips in this series are gathered from many who have learned, sometimes the hard way, better ways to do things. The first piece explores what kind of person tends to do well on short term international assignments. The following ones look at practical issues like health, packing, security, leaving the home front behind, managing paper and money and the challenge of working in new cultures. Enjoy.


Succeeding on Short Term Missions

What are the secrets to success on short term international missions?

Long term international missions provide time to learn. Those that last just weeks or months compound steep learning curves with jet lag; no local network; banking, visa and travel uncertainties; security questions and no time to get sick or make mistakes.


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The Right Stuff

Success begins with me.  Do I have what it takes to succeed on international assignments?  Research suggests that while 75% of us enjoy working abroad, only 20% of us are considered highly effective by those with whom we work.

We begin this series of articles by asking what kind of person survives

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Take Two Aspirins…

As a short term traveller, you don’t have time to get sick.  You will get better but being sick will consume your working time and feel unpleasant.  We asked frequent travellers to share how they avoid it and what they carry just in case.

One fine travel health experts  is Toronto’s Dr.

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With Eyes Wide Open

The world can be a dangerous place.  We don’t want to be naive about it.  We also don’t want to be paralyzed by the risks.  The ideal zone of attentiveness lies somewhere between Pollyanna and Paranoia.

Some of us willingly work in environments where bombs, shootings and kidnappings are a present danger. 

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Good things come in small packings

The secret to successful packing for short term international missions is “small”.  Keep it light and compact.  Pack what you think you’ll need, then take out half.

Why? Rotator cuffs and regrets are two of the reasons.  I used to pack for any imagined eventuality – and regularly injured shoulder joints while

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The Home Front

Do the dishes before you leave

Short term missions are a bit out of time and space.  They hold their own challenges but while we are on them we get to leave behind many of the routines and responsibilities of home and home office.

Those who remain behind, however, are taking care of

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Imagine an Iceberg

A small part of an iceberg, perhaps 10%, is visible above the waterline.  The rest, holding up the visible part, is hidden below the surface.

So it is with culture.  The part we see when we go someplace new – how people dress, interact, their arts, public behaviours, food – the things

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Getting the Job Done

Humans survive by getting the job done.  It turns out there are many ways to do that.

Cultures evolve to meet human needs in different environments and historic contexts.  Yet there are broad patterns.  Anthropologist ET Hall talked about “high context” and “low context” cultures.  We urban, professional Canadians tend towards being

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Culture Shock

We’re about to get a new used car – with an automatic transmission!  We feel like we’re entering the 1990’s. It sounds simple – you might even imagine simpler than the manual transmissions we have enjoyed for decades.   Yet I’m anticipating discomfort and trouble.  Change can be hard.

As humans we know

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