With less than a week to go in the IIP, I am trying to take advantage of these last few days in what has been the most amazing experience of my life. This experience has taught me so many important life lessons that I will keep forever, and I am excited to put my knowledge to use upon my return to the states. I will miss my host family, who has been so amazing to me, and the many friends I’ve made over these past two months, but I am also excited to return home and see my own family and old friends (and make up lots of money by working for the rest of the summer!).
As I begin my final week of work, looking back on when I first arrived here, it amazes me how drastically things can change. When my plane touched down in Spain, I was alone in a foreign country for the first time in my life, excited but also nervous for the next two months. I remember driving from the airport to my family’s house; the plane ride and those first 24 hours in Madrid felt like a dream. I felt out of place at first, and even more so when my host mom answered the door and I understood none of what she said (blamed it on the jet lag). Now, two months later, I feel so comfortable here. Commuting to work each morning and saying hi to my coworkers feels so routine and normal at this point, as if I’ve been here for years. I am definitely going to miss this life when I leave here very soon.
In the United States workplace, where many people are driven by profit and rank, there often arises hostile and threatening work environments. Many Americans have schedules that make it extremely difficult for them to simultaneously earn for their families and deal with important family matters. The work/life balance is something that Spain has a great advantage in, and they rank above the average compared to other countries. People here value the separation of work and private life, and after looking into it a bit, it appears that more Spaniards feel happy, comfortable, and safe in their workplace, compared to Americans.
I can’t speak generally for all of Spain, since I have only worked with one organization, but based on my individual work experience, “success” in a professional sense is not determined by profit. The organization and people I work for are not like many of the typical business people in America. Rather than being driven by wealth and power, my coworkers are driven by making a difference in the world and changing the lives of young students and university students around the world. As I mentioned in other assignments, we are a nonprofit that isn’t greatly funded. It’s clear that my coworkers aren’t just in it for the pay. The selflessness of the people I work with is evident, more than what is present in large American corporations. The people in my organization also really value their relationships with each other. All of the people in the office are very close and it is clear that they enjoy working together every day. We have had a few lunches together as a team, and hearing them talk about issues outside of the workplace, I can tell that they have genuine friendships, and that maintaining those friendships is just as important as working.
In my organization, a successful employee is one that is selfless and puts the interests of others, such as the youth in my case, ahead of their own. A successful employee is one who is determined to help spread awareness about various issues, examples being lack of education, environmental concerns, and sustainability and development. Working with my coworkers over the past couple months has been a perfect match, as we both have similar beliefs to what is actually important in work/life. I am learning everyday here that the real value in work is doing good for others while building long-lasting relationships. It is crucial that I am actually happy and feel that I am making a difference in my job, and that I don’t just pick a job that pays me well. I am grateful that I am able to build relationships of my own during my time here.
See you next week