Working like an Aussie

As I looked at the calendar today, it dawned on me that I’ve passed the halfway point in my study abroad experience.  This realization filled me with sadness, but also a sense of pride.  Studying Abroad is unlike any experience I have had before.  I was terrified going in – I had no idea what to expect.  What if I couldn’t make any friends? What if I struggled to find my way around the city or understand the Australian way of life? What if…(insert any semi-rational concern here.) But, despite these fears, I have great friends, have learned to navigate the city with confidence, and have conquered many other challenges.

While abroad, I am interning at the Sydney Harbor Marriott in the Human Resources department.  This internship placement was a dream come true for me.  I have always been fascinated with the hospitality industry and passionate about my Human Resources major.  Despite being incredibly excited, I was quite nervous about what to expect from it as I walked into my first day. I knew there would be a lot of new people to meet and new things to learn.

I wasn’t wrong – there were certainly challenges and I have certainly made mistakes, but I have also learned an incredible amount.  I was welcomed warmly by everyone working there and treated as if I was truly part of their team.  It’s fascinating to dig deeper into HR and compare and contrast the differences in workplace laws, customs, and regulations between Australia and the United States.

Although I began my internship with trepidation, three times a week I now get dressed in my business casual, hop on the train for my commute to work, stop for a coffee, and walk  confidently into a morning meeting.  It’s wonderful to assimilate into the culture as many working professionals would. To anyone who plans to intern abroad, the best piece of advice I could give would be to enter the experience with an open mind.  It may not be exactly what you expect, but you will gain so much experience and personal growth from it.

In addition to learning in a professional setting, I have also made personal connections with my co-workers that open to my eyes about pieces of Australian culture that I hadn’t picked up on yet. One day over lunch, for example, a younger employee in my office began asking me about American Uni.  She told me that she had always been so envious of how fun it seemed, based off the things she saw in the movies.  This struck me as funny because it’s something I had always taken for granted. Here, though, Uni is less about socializing and more about learning.  Few students ever even live on campus.

It’s incredible to reflect on how much confidence I have gained while here.  I faced a scary experience and am not only managing, but thriving.  I love being abroad and am infinitely grateful that I stepped up the challenge and allowed myself to be molded by the experience.