One thing I’ve been realizing as I approach the last few weeks of this internship program is that there is still so much I haven’t done, seen, and experienced here in Ireland. This isn’t to say that I haven’t been doing enough; what I’ve realized is that even if I lived here in Dublin for many more years, I probably still wouldn’t run out of things to do and other places to explore. This past weekend, I went to the top of Montpelier Hill (also referred to as Hell Fire Club after the abandoned hunting lodge that sits on the top of the hill). It was kind of just a coincidence that I even knew this scenic location existed. Before I left for Dublin, I did some searching on the internet for things to do in and around the city. As I was scrolling through some lists, the Hell Fire Club came up. I hadn’t really read about it anywhere else except for one reference on one website, so finding out that this place existed was kind of just serendipitous. I have to say: going to the top of the hill and looking out over all of Dublin (and over some of the western parts of Ireland) was one of my favorite things I’ve done so far while abroad. It was a short but pretty steep hike to the top of the hill, but once you make it to the top, the view is amazing. I took pictures of the view to the best of my ability, but the view from the top of the hill is something that can’t really be captured. You have to be there to really understand how breathtaking it is. When I told my coworkers that I went over the weekend, one of them said something that really resonated with me: they said that one of the special things about Dublin is that you can be right in the middle of the city, but if you travel away from the center even for a little bit, you’ll find yourself totally surrounded by nature. This is one of the reasons that I’m glad I chose to study abroad in Ireland – the city is right there if you want it, but you’re never far from the mountains or a beautiful overlook.
In the same way that I’ve experienced literal new scenic views in Ireland, I’ve also come to view myself and my approach to leadership in new ways. Before this internship experience, I felt like I had some reasonable and sound ideas about effective leadership methods. Again, this isn’t to say that I knew the exact way to be the best leader possible, but I had some general approaches to leadership that seemed to be effective in the context of my leadership roles for my clubs, jobs, and organizations at Pitt. One of the things that I felt was important for effective leadership was being a good listener. As someone who is somewhat quieter and slightly introverted, I know how difficult it can be to reach out and get involved. Because it might be difficult for some team members to speak out, a good leader is considerate of the different personalities they are working with and does everything they can to reach out to their collaborators to encourage involvement and express praise and support. Similarly, a good leader understands how different people operate and coordinates individual differences so that they can each contribute to a shared goal. Being a leader also involves asking for feedback from the people you work with and not assuming that the way you are approaching a problem or situation is the only/right way to approach it.
Given these tenets of good leadership that I subscribed to prior to this internship experience, my perspective on good leadership has also evolved and changed in some ways. Even though I’m interning in a foreign country where English is one of the primary languages, I have still experienced some language challenges and barriers in terms of convention and figurative references and expressions. These communication complexities and interactions with my coworkers and supervisors has really shown me the importance of being conscious of gaps in people’s understanding of information and comprehension of specific sets of knowledge. Coming to my publishing internship as someone who had never before worked in this field, I’ve learned that when you’re completely new to a country’s culture or an industry’s culture, the information learning curve can feel steep. From these types of experiences I’ve had at my internship, I hope to remember these things when I am back in my leadership roles on campus. Because of my internship experience abroad, I hope that I will continue to train myself to look at situations from the perspective of someone who is completely new to or unfamiliar with my organizations’ methods and procedures. By training myself to identify potential areas of ambiguity or potentially unclear directions in my leadership positions, I hope to be more inclusive and considerate of people who are new to my organizations and committees at Pitt. If people who are new to my clubs and committees at Pitt and they feel like some of their questions and concerns are already being considered, addressed, and answered without their specific outreach or intervention, then they might feel more comfortable staying in the organization and less intimidated by a potentially unfamiliar club culture.
Overall, I think that my internship experience abroad has made me a better leader and will continue to make me a better leader as I apply everything that I’ve learned to my leadership roles back at Pitt. While in Dublin, I’ve realized that everyone has a different learning style and different way of working. After observing this, I’ve also realized that as long as people are being productive, they should be allowed to have some freedom with how they handle things. In my leadership roles back in the States, I will remember that trust is an important part of building relationships with the people you are leading. If you ask questions to the people you’re working with to get their feedback and to give them the opportunity to identify what they still might not understand, you will increase the chances that your coworkers and fellow club members will feel more involved and more essential to the workings of your organization.