When I first came to London, I was excited at the possibilities that came with living in this global city. The part of this program I was most excited for was that I would be completing an internship abroad. I have been interning at the Langham Hotel here in London, and as much as I have enjoyed it, I had an adjustment period.
When I first started, I was so excited to meet my coworkers and really understand the British workplace. Everyone I work with was so kind and welcoming, but I struggled to acclimate to this environment. I would walk down the halls, and everyone said hello to everyone, but when we were at lunch or talking in the office, I felt a little like an outsider.
Most of my coworkers have been in their jobs or with the hotel for at least a year. They all know each other and since I am part of the finance team, they work closely with one another. Basically, they are all friends in the workplace and I came in feeling like an outsider.
In the beginning it was especially hard because of the language barrier. While we both speak English, we do not use all the same phrases and they do not always mean the same thing. There were questions with underlying meanings and sarcasm that I would not pick up on until it was too late. It would try to join conversations or be asked questions and I would quickly become confused and embarrassed when it was clear I did not know what they meant. I was more comfortable to observe instead of join in.
After my first week of this, I was slowly beginning to understand more and as comfortable as I was, I did not want to be an outsider. I began to talk more and more with my one coworker and during lunch with the team I would try and more actively participate in the conversation. Even though it took me a little time to step outside of my comfort zone, when I finally did my coworkers were quick to make me feel welcome again. Coming in as the only intern I felt like an outsider, so I struggled to form relationships with my coworkers, but the issue was my discomfort.
The actual workplace is very nice, and I feel that I adjusted to the work rather quickly. My supervisor was quick to give me more and more work each day and she is always willing to explain to me what she is doing. This has allowed me to see and understand more of the daily work the team does to prepare for the many statements and reports that will need to be done. Since I started during the end of a month, the finance team was extraordinarily busy. I think this was beneficial because this fast pace kept me busy and my supervisor was happy to give me more work to do.
The only real challenge I faced in adjusting to my internship was the communication with my coworkers. I never realized before this experience how shy I can get in new situations. I, like many people, shy away from discomfort and will stay in my own little bubble if it makes me feel better. I thought I came into this experience with an open mind, which I think I did, but not as open as I had thought. I was quick to stay inside my comfort zone, and even though it took me a little time I am so glad I was able to step out.
One piece of advice I would give to anyone doing an international internship would be to lean into the discomfort. It is going to be an adjustment, but if you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone, even just a little, it will be well worth it and make your experience so much better.