It seems a little surreal that this will be the last post that I will write for this trip. These 8 weeks flew by so fast, yet at the same time I feel as if I have been living here for a considerable amount of time. Whether it is the 9-5 routine or learning how to master the Parisian metro system, adapting to this “new life” was surprisingly easy. Because I try to live every day to the fullest while I’m here, the weeks just go by. Last week, once I was Covid free, I was able to go back to work and do the last little bit of sightseeing around Paris. The major highlights were Champs Elysée, Arc de Triomphe, Musée d’Orsay, and Place de Vosges!
I find this week’s blog topic super interesting as it is one of the major differences that I have noticed while working abroad. The overall concept of success in Europe, including France, is drastically different from what we consider a successful person in the U.S. As I am reaching the end of this experience, living in Paris for two months showed me how most people tend to value a higher quality of life over money, and that having the best paying job does not automatically check the “successful” box. Having a better work-life balance, fewer working hours, longer lunches, and overall, a more relaxed working environment seems to be much more related to success than the idea of productivity and money that most of us are used to.
At my job, a successful employee is not the one who can get the most number of tasks done in the least amount of time, but instead someone who communicates, who has empathy, who understands that challenges can come up, and who knows how to respect boundaries. Since this program is my first internship experience, it is a little difficult to compare it to any other professional experience that I have had in the U.S. Most of what I think about when thinking about success is my college experience, and how students have this constant pressure to always be the best in everything we can in order to succeed. But I believe that these perceptions go beyond college life, creating a cycle where we only consider ourselves successful if we work extremely hard towards a goal. This does not mean that my co-workers do not work hard or that working towards professional goals is not appreciated in France. Everyone at my office was extremely professional and we were all do our best to make sure we deliver quality content. Yet, I believe working in a country that values more than “success” allows more people to truly work with what makes them happy, and I very much appreciate that.
One of the main reasons why I chose this study abroad program was because I wanted to experience these cultural differences in person in order to have a better idea of my career plans. Even if for a short amount of time, coming here confirmed what I had already planned as it showed me, firsthand, that success is not always about money and for some people, professional competency, happiness, and career satisfaction counts much more.
I also understand that working at a small NGO is quite different than working at a bigger company and that has affected what I have learned over these 8 weeks. NGO’s are naturally known for being a space where people are passionate about their job, and at Robin de Bois, that was not any different. While I am not completely sure what career path I want to take, working in an environment like the one I experienced here is certainly something that I will strive for after graduating!