Journaling on the Job… Claire Smith

“When I started my internship I was coming into a company where everyone had already known each other. It was a small office and everyone was very close nit. How was I, this stranger, supposed to create these friendships in the short time I was there? I was working for a hostel organization where everyone was very into travel. They were very worldly people who had all lived abroad and traveled the world. Now, I became more comfortable with them, and eventually became very good friends.”

-Claire Smith
Australia fall 2012

Claire Smith

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.05.23 PMI 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.

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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.

Victoria Webster

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How did you form a relationship with co-workers? Over drinks after work? Over tea in the office? Not at all?

I am Victoria Webster and I studied abroad in London in the spring of 2013. I worked at YATI, young actors theatre of Islington, a theatre and talent agency for young actors. In theatre, you work non-stop to create art. I was fortunate that this internship fulfilled all of my hopes in relation to working abroad, as well as being fully concentrated on my major. I worked with an array of different characters, ranging from the theatre’s artistic director to 10 year old actors.

Therefore I had many different kinds of relationships. I had to be a relaxed co-worker, a dutiful assistant and friendly child ring-leader, depending on the day. I found myself bonding over meals, drinks post show and tea time breaks.

I found that one needs to be open at all times to new people, experiences and to never EVER judge another person in a new situation.

Studying abroad is a magical experience! I found that if you are open and proactive in learning about another’s life you will find events and ways to bond. This will form a deeper relationship in your abroad internship than you ever expected.

Connor D’Albora

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My biggest challenge with my abroad internship was that it had a really rough start. My placement was with a wonderful music charity and it was an incredible experience in the end. I am a Music Production and Recording Arts major so I knew this was not completely in my focus I was hoping for in an internship, I also had little experience in the industry so I was just looking for anything to get my hands on for any experience. When I went in for the interview, my boss had her own idea of what an American student would be like and really needed my to know specifically what I wanted to do with the company.

Although I had entered the interview with an open mind, knowing every detail about the company and was enthusiastic to join the team, I was told at the end of my interview that I “was not quite the right fit,” but they would give me a chance. This really put me in an uncomfortable position and tough spot because while everyone else had great interviews and just got to come into an office that really welcomed them, I felt like I was still earning my spot. Even though the internship process started out rough for me, it was an unbelievable experience and I did earn my spot at the internship. I ended the internship having earned the respect of my boss with a lot of hard work. I always showed up early, did more than was asked of me for tasks and finishing the tasks early. In return, my boss set up days for me to go and learn about the technical production for sound events in theatre, concerts and film.

Overall, my challenge was that I was coming into a situation not knowing exactly what I wanted to get out of it and my boss had her own idea of what an American intern would be like. I never really negotiated my problem, I just learned that I had quickly find out what it was I wanted to gain from the experience other than just the generalities of an internship experience as well as how to show my boss that I was ambitious and had initiative. At the end of my experience, my boss and co-workers found me to be helpful, and my boss told me that they would be more than happy to have me back working for them in the future. My biggest advice coming out of that is to give yourself very specific goals going into an internship and to never doubt yourself if the place you are working at has doubts in you. I think if I had let that interview get to me more I would have had a much harder time going in with a smile and overcoming the initial opinion they had of me.

Journaling on the Job… Maggie Achey

“As the internship is drawing to a close, I am only just starting to realize my transformation into a global citizen. I find that I am developing hard and soft skill, such as writing and professional experiences. The other day my supervisor gave me the task of phoning theatres, because she said my phone skills have improved and they are very professional. It was great to hear this because it made me more aware of my changing cultural competence. I was able to pick up on some nuisances and values that have given me so many transferable skills. I think this internship has given me more self-confidence and helped me define my identity of a global citizen through my negotiation of differences.”

-Maggie Achey

London spring 2013