Each business differs in its “organizational culture” and the differences are even greater when comparing business sectors in two different countries. Each country has their own culture and values which then transfer to a professional setting. At my internship placement (CAR-Vallecas) for example, the work style is very relaxed much like Spanish culture. Relaxed in the sense that interns are allowed to provide suggestions for various projects, we have a coffee break everyday at 11 a.m. where my co-workers and I go to the nearest cafe (the owner is practically family to them), there is an end of the year party with the residents etc. This doesn’t mean that the work that is done at the center is any less professional/important/meaningful than any other business, things are just done differently.
Towards the beginning of my internship at CAR-Vallecas, I wasn’t used to getting so much information thrown at me at once. I thought I would never figure out how to complete the tasks that were expected of me because a lot of the time the information that I received wasn’t relayed to me in a super straight forward/clear way (like most American internship/work settings). I’m given tasks to do like add information to several excel spreadsheets about economic help allocated for residents (personal expenses, medical bills, textbooks, baby clothes/food), accompanying residents to the health center, explaining the process one has to take in order to get permission to work/live, set up appointments with lawyers for residents, set up doctors appointments for residents and the list goes on. As you can see, it was pretty normal for me to be overwhelmed and the fact that everything was in Spanish made it a tad bit more difficult. However, as the weeks went on I found myself getting into the groove of things, feeling comfortable asking questions, knowing where everything was stored on the computer and most importantly, learning the names and stories of the residents. Having good relationships with the people that you work with is extremely important to me and crucial to being comfortable at work. I try my best to engage in conversations with my coworkers (it can be hard when they’re talking about specific Spanish politics b/c I can’t really offer much insight) and also my supervisor. I found that when I began participating more I received acknowledgement in return.
Although I am an outsider at my internship, so are the 96 residents currently living there. I have learned so much from these people about compassion, the importance of family and injustices that continue to exist in the world. In addition to strengthening relationships with my coworkers, I’m also trying my best to do the same with the residents. Learning more about about political/social injustices that exist in countries like Venezuela, Ukraine and Palestine has influenced me to do more research about these countries and others facing similar issues. This weekend I went to an exhibit with my mom at the museum of anthropology called “Mujeres del Congo” (Women of the Congo). The exhibit expresses the violence that women and girls face in The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the activism that has emerged as a result.
I still have lot’s to learn and I’m going to sit back and listen.