My coworkers have made the transition to my international internship quite smooth. There are two managers at the museum I work at, one speaks limited English and the other none at all. My coworkers all speak enough English to talk to me which was extremely reassuring when I first began working. I knew what I was getting myself into by applying to complete my internship in Italian, but it is still comforting to know that when I don’t understand something there are people I can ask in English to help. All of my managers and coworkers were extremely welcoming from day 1 and have been easy to connect with. They all appreciate my help around the office and in the museum and encourage me to adapt to the Italian work culture. They frequently check in on my progress to see if I need any help, but also give me enough space to get my work done without feeling like I’m being babysat- I have found it to be a nice balance.
The biggest challenge that I have encountered in my new internship is the obvious language barrier that I anticipated. After my first day of speaking only in Italian I felt unsure about my choice. I felt badly that I was slowing down my managers’ work day because it takes me longer to speak and understand what they are saying. Since then, I have grown more comfortable asking them to slow down or repeat and am feeling a lot more confident in my ability to productively work in general in this new language.
Another challenge I have faced is the difference in communication standards. My coworker generates my schedule weekly but the days and times frequently change day by day. At times this can be frustrating as I am never 100% confident in when I’m working until I actually get there, however I am getting used to being flexible and paying attention to my phone for updates. This type of scheduling would be extremely difficult to live with back in Pittsburgh because I have so many other commitments that require planning ahead, but here I really don’t have much else to interfere with my work schedule.
If you are about to transition to a new international internship, my best advice would be to keep an open mind. Just because you did something a certain way back home does not mean that is the only way to do it. Rather than insisting that “this is how I know it should be done so I should do it this way,” be prepared to change your work style. At all of my previous jobs I have been expected to work the entire time I am at work. Taking a break to talk with coworkers, talking a walk in the middle of the day, or going to grab a cup of coffee at a café down the street were never even considerations in my mind during the work day. Here, I am not only allowed but encouraged to do all of these things because this is how the Italians believe the workplace should be. They don’t treat their work as something they must do to provide for themselves and their family. They let their lives and their work days intertwine so that this feeling of being “stuck at work” does not exist.