Over the semester, I’ve been working as a Marketing and Communications Intern for Young Citizens, an educational nonprofit charity organization here in London. I now feel entirely comfortable working alongside British coworkers, though I was definitely anxious about starting the job. I had no idea what the difference was between a UK workplace and a US one.
Connecting with my coworkers took some time. I wasn’t immediately friends with a lot of the people in the office, and I was hesitant to speak with anyone because of my accent and lack of knowledge regarding etiquette in the UK workplace. What’s funny is these points of apprehension for me became the topics of conversations that broke the ice. We discussed our differences, not with noses in the air, but with genuine curiosity. I worked through my insecurities with my British coworkers and found that I had nothing to worry about. The differences between us like schooling, politics and taste in TV, weren’t all that different after all. I also found it helpful that there were a couple other Americans working at Young Citizens at the same time as me. This made me feel like less of a sore thumb.
The one person that I felt an immediate connection with was my manager, Richard. Rich made an effort to hire a couple people from the states as interns every year, so he was accustomed to communicating with US college students. I never had to repeat a sentence around him, because he was familiar with US accents and figures of speech. He spent a lot of time teaching me about the organization, how we aided schools across the country, and what I could do to contribute value. From the first day, I had a sense of agency, and understood the importance of the work I was doing. This also helped me to realize the ultimate goal of my work abroad; to transcend cultural boundaries in a mutual effort to make the world a better place. Once the values of the company were laid out for me by Rich, I really wanted to connect with the employees working alongside me.
If I were to give one piece of advice to someone transitioning into an international internship, I would say this: Make sure you understand the company’s mission statement and end goals. This way, the passion for your work overshadows the fear of communication that you’ll most likely have when starting. Find a personal connection between your own values and those of the company.