The biggest challenge was probably making sure my internship counted towards the requirements I needed at Elon to complete my minor. I had to request work from my supervisor and to make sure it was in-line with current course requirements. Sometimes internships are more about tasks that supervisors need completed, which is fine; however, you have to make sure that your internship is beneficial to you as well and that you’re learning skills necessary to receive class credit as well as real-world experience when looking for jobs after you graduate. Don’t just think about your internship in terms of the next 6 months, think about how it could help you within the next year.
Also, it wasn’t hard to negotiate with my supervisor. We sat down at the start of the semester to outline goals and checked in periodically to make sure everyone was happy with the work completed. As long as you have an open dialog, it’s not really a negotiation, but rather a conversation.
I was nervous to start my internship. I was starting a job at a foreign company all by myself. When I got there everyone was very close and I felt out of place. There was also a huge difference in American professionalism verses Australian professionalism. In my office everyone wore jeans and were good friends. I acted as an American: fast paced and hard working. I did not know how to mix professionalism with friendship. I had a lot of trouble breaking out of my comfort zone and getting to know my coworkers on a more personal level. Australians are more relaxed and want to sit down and have a conversation with you. I was so used to the fast paced life style of America that I did not fit in. The work place culture was so different it took a lot of adjusting for me.
This is the building I worked in in Sydney. It was right down the street from the Sydney Opera House.
I felt a sense of “loss and deprivation of friends, status, profession, and possessions”1. I was experiencing culture shock. The person I was at home was washed away and I had no choice but to start from scratch. I became more aware of my differences when I started getting called out for my “Americanism”. People wanted to have conversations about American gun laws and politics with me. People told me they think America is so dangerous that they would never want to travel there. Because I don’t know much about American politics it was difficult for me to engage in these conversations where I felt attacked. Australians would come up to me on the street and ask if I were American because of the boots I was wearing. I felt a master status of being American because I could not escape from the way I dressed, how I spoke, or where I was from. I started feeling rejected by the locals which influenced my looking-glass self. I thought they looked at me as a dumb, not-tendy, unfriendly American.
It was hard when I didn’t feel like I fit in because I am Australian. My dad was born and raised there. I was expecting to go back to Australia and find a piece of myself. I wanted to understand my dad’s culture and why he does some of the crazy things he does. But there I was an Australian citizen not fitting in with Australians. I had come in search of finding a piece of me that was missing, but instead I was being rejected by my own blood. I started wondering if I’m not truly American and I’m not Australian, who am I? I felt pressure from my family to love Australia. My dad especially wanted me to love it. I wanted to be able to do this for him, but I felt lost.
My culture shock started to ease when I started to become good friends with my coworkers. I got into a routine and became more casual at work. I started making friends and met one of my best friends abroad. I began traveling almost every weekend with friends.
Check out this video to hear other from students who have interned in Australia!