Hasta Luego España

This week was difficult as I had to say goodbye to my amazing coworkers, host family, and daily routine. My coworkers threw me a little going away party where we ate the typical Spanish foods such as the Spanish tortilla, orange juice (with lots of pulp), and Iberian ham on bread. My supervisor, who was once terrifying to me, cried and gave me a hug when she read my thank you letter. She told me how happy she was with the work I did here and to have had me working for her this summer. It was really nice to hear that considering I was never directly told by her that she was happy with my performance. Leaving my host family was difficult as well. I lived with the most caring and genuine family for the past two months. There were a lot of tears when I said my final goodbyes, but I hope to go back again to visit them in the future. I am sad to be leaving the routine I have fallen into here in Madrid, but I am grateful for the experiences I have had and the relationships I have made.

It is interesting to interact within the Spanish culture because contextual clues are a very important part of communication. This is very different from the culture in the United States because we tend to be more direct in our communication styles. Overall, the communication structure in Spain is circular. What lies between the words, and what is left unsaid is often the most important in a conversation. This has proven to be difficult for me to adjust to because I am used to communication that is direct. Working is Spain is more difficult because it is much harder to interpret the expectations that my supervisor has for me. I had to learn quickly how to pick up on contextual clues in order to successfully interact within the workplace, with my host family, and with others in the community. I was told a story about a student who previously went through the same program. He showed up late a few times to work, and each time his supervisor said don’t worry about it. After the third time, his supervisor said once again don’t worry about it, but this time added do not come back again. Hearing this story at the beginning of my internship pushed me to pay more attention to context during conversations.

Since the Spanish culture relies heavily on contextual clues, I did a lot of people watching throughout my time in Madrid. I would watch the actions, facial expressions, and interactions of others in order to understand situations, and to figure out how to conduct myself correctly within the culture. When I encountered situations where I needed to problem solve, I would analyze the context of the situation in order to understand what was expected of me. I believe that I have improved my problem-solving skills greatly throughout my time abroad considering I had to find new and creative ways daily to solve problems in a society that is not as direct as my own. Gaining this new point of view will be very beneficial as I can bring these skills back to the United States to use in future internships and jobs.

The feedback that is provided to me at work was incredibly direct with my coworkers, and very ambiguous with my supervisor. I relied heavily on context clues from my supervisor in regard to feedback. If I wanted to know more about my performance I had to ask over and over again. Even when we were doing my performance reviews, she would ask me how I thought I was doing instead of telling me her thoughts. This was very frustrating but taught me more about reading the situation instead of focuses too much on the words being said. My coworkers on the other hand had a different approach to feedback. They sort of just yelled with a slightly panicked tone when I did something incorrectly. For example, one time I opened a box to review the contents, but apparently the serial number and expiry date were on the outside of this specific product. Instead of telling me calmly, I heard a yell from across the room saying “NO! Do not open that box!”. It was an easy fix as we just taped it back up and it was good as new, but to them this is the way they thought was most effective for me to learn. Let me just say, I never opened that type of box again, so I guess it did work in that scenario. I personally don’t think either form of feedback is very effective on their own. I think that there should be a combination of both in the workplace. I believe that a good balance between direct feedback and reading the situation creates a more efficient workplace.