Embracing ambiguity

Hi everyone,

There are less than two weeks until this amazing program comes to an end. While I am not quite ready for it to end, I am excited to get back home and see my friends and family who I miss very much. 

To start, I had an incredible weekend in Portugal. I was lucky enough to find a very cheap flight and travel there, with seven other friends, leaving Friday night and returning Sunday morning. The colorful city of Porto was incredible, and we were able to do so many activities on Saturday, which was really our only day there. I am very happy that I got to visit another country, something I didn’t know if I would be able to do because of the five-day work weeks. We loved everything about Porto, it just seemed so laid back and relaxing, and the river, bridges, mountains, and buildings made for some spectacular views. 

Last week at work was a little lighter than usual. Part of the reason is that I had to work remotely two of the days, so naturally, I just communicated less with my coworkers and supervisor and didn’t have quite as many tasks to complete. However, this week that I started today is probably going to be my busiest one yet as we are hurrying to complete many little projects. The main thing I will be doing this week is marketing my organization’s educational programs onto a site that works to promote international programs. I had a zoom meeting with one of the leaders of that organization today, and I will be working directly with her over the next week as she guides me through the processes. 

Coming from the United States, it is clear that there is a large difference in communication in the workplace, and outside of it too. It’s evident that the United States is a low-context culture in that ideas are spelled out clearly and there is little left for interpretation. Ambiguity is low and work operates on explicit verbal communication. In the workplace, as an intern for example, you will be given more exact directions on how to complete tasks, trying to avoid mistakes as much as possible. During my time in Spain, I have quickly experienced the high-context style of communication in my workplace. This form of communication is purposely left up for interpretation as ideas are just not explained as thoroughly. For example, when I work with my supervisor, he gives me a general idea of what he wants done, but he never explains exactly how I should complete each task. This style of communication has increased too as the weeks have gone on and he has gained more confidence in my work. Personally, I sometimes struggle with this concept, as I am someone who would rather be told exactly what to do. If not, I tend to question if I am doing a task accurately and how they want me to. As time has gone on, I have learned to embrace the ambiguity because I know that it is preparing me for a career ahead. There will always be ambiguity, so practicing how to overcome it now, as an intern with little pressure, is a big step forward.

I haven’t had any major problems that resulted from the difference in communication style, only very little details. Whenever I am experiencing a moment of doubt, I’ll just ask my supervisor or other coworkers for clarity. I have several little chats throughout the day with my supervisor that clear up confusion on different tasks. Once again though, this has decreased over time as he and I are becoming more confident in my work. 

Luckily, I haven’t had to work remotely very much. I am fortunate enough to be in an office setting, which is definitely helping my speaking abilities. However, there have been a few days that I worked from home. For example, this past Friday, my supervisor did not go into the office and I worked remotely. He was not able to work at all that day, so he sent me a short message on what he wanted done. It was very confusing and not spelled out at all, but I just started doing the normal things that I do everyday. He was busy with another issue, so I couldn’t really ask him for clarification, and I was forced to just do the rest of the work how I thought. I ended up doing what he wanted and he was very pleased with my work. It made me realize that ambiguity offers an opportunity to get creative and go about tasks in a unique way. 

See you all next week.