My overall experience in London has been one of new challenges, broadened horizons, and personal growth. The key facet to that last part, I think, has been my foreign internship experience. I was placed as a logistics intern at Sunnylife UK Europe Ltd., a division of an Australian summer lifestyle brand known for its pool inflatable products. During my time at Sunnylife so far, I’ve faced difficulties in handling a new style of workspace, adapting to a foreign work culture, and communicating with people from multiple different countries. I believe these challenges have already helped me grow as a professional and will help me to better adapt to similar challenges in the future.
My only previous internship experiences have come from working in community banking, so the most noticeable difference upon first arriving at Sunnylife’s Fitzrovia office was the workspace layout. Though not a distinctly British practice, Sunnylife uses an open-plan office. The layout makes sense for an office this size, as it only has about a dozen employees. However, I find that it can be stressful and harder to concentrate on my projects while listening to the entire office functioning in the same space. In the end though, I believe working in this environment, while difficult, has helped me learn to focus better in high-pressure and stressful situations.
Additionally, fitting into a new office isn’t easy to do, even in one’s native culture. Coming into this internship, I knew I would have to find a way to adapt successfully to both the business and personal office cultures. I found that I underestimated how much internal resistance it takes to overcome some of these differences mentally; at the beginning, I’d go back to my flat everyday craving some American familiarity. However, listening to others in the program vocalize similar difficulties encouraged me to keep at it.
I think being able to respect and learn from coworkers of different cultures has not only broadened my individual horizons but maximized the work performance of the entire office. Developing this sort of cultural intelligence, I think, is imperative to working effectively in an increasingly global marketplace.
Sunnylife offers a very diverse work environment; more than half of its London employees are originally from outside of the United Kingdom. While this presents an exciting opportunity to learn from people of these cultures, it also poses a challenge to work effectively with them. In regard to the latter, communication is the biggest obstacle. It can be especially challenging to adapt to a new workplace when there is any kind of a language barrier. In my case, I’ve had to adjust to not only the nuances between British and American English, but also interpret work instructions in sometimes broken or even non-English languages.
The challenges I’ve faced so far during my internship, while at times trying, are the most important component of the experience in terms of my professional development. Ultimately, I feel as though the discussions and strategies that come up in class have empowered me to overcome these challenges and be a better intern.