As I am sitting here back home in rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania writing this final blog post for my study abroad experience, I cannot help but reflect on my time in Dublin, Ireland, wondering whether or not it was within my definition of a ‘success’. While sipping on my coffee and looking out over my backyard in the comfort of the home I grew up in, I can no doubt in my heart and mind say that this experience has been nothing short of fruitful. It has been a success in helping me grow as a person and as a professional: whether that be the patience and coping mechanisms I learned during my medical troubles, the self-assuredness and self-confidence I learned by venturing out on my own and befriending complete strangers, or the initiative and drive I developed through being tasked with many challenging problems during my internship at UCD IT Services. Every trip we took, from Edinburgh to Belfast, to Galway and Dun Laoghaire and everywhere in-between, I learned to value and appreciate every second I had with myself, my friends, and the present moment in time. I will forever cherish the memories I made, the people I met along the way, the work I was able to accomplish, and the sights I was able to see. That is what defined a successful and experience-rich summer to me.
However, when it comes to success, everyone has their own definitions. Some see success in the form of material wealth. Some see it as fame or accolades. Some see it as personal growth and relationships. These are all personal definitions, however. And while there is no true definition, I tend to gravitate towards the latter. I think that is why I felt that I fit in professionally in the Irish professional environment.
From my time spent in Dublin, I gathered, at least from my work environment at UCD, that success was defined by the work one put in. Hard work and effort were seen as valuable within the workplace and as successful. Even when my team ran into many obstacles and errors, they always encouraged me and complemented me on my patience and my never-give-up attitude. They could see I was giving it my all, even when we were not necessarily making progress on our initiatives due to problematic hardware, network errors, etc. Despite these problems, I never felt discouraged. I felt like a success because my coworkers saw success in the effort I was putting in to problem-solving and making progress.
Thus, a successful Irish intern/employee is one who works well in a team and pulls their weight. One can make as much progress as humanly possible, but if they were to not take into consideration their teammates and prioritize themselves, they would not be seen as a success, let alone a team player. Because of how much more personable their work culture is, it is just as important to work hard as it is to befriend and get along with your coworkers, creating an environment in which asking questions and making mistakes is acceptable.
I feel like success in an American professional setting is a little more superficial. Success in America, I believe, is based more on actual visible progress than it is based in hard work put in. In an American company, one can work as hard as humanly possible while working well with their teams, but if they are not making progress that is benefiting the company monetarily, their efforts are in vain, being seen as unsuccessful. I hope to bring part of what I learned of the work culture in Ireland over to America, hoping it sticks. While obviously making capital and meeting deadlines and progression is vital to keep a company running, harvesting a professional environment of creativity and comradery is difficult when hard work is not receiving as much praise as actual physical results. Basing ‘success’ and praise on physical results can create a work environment that is both stressful and competitive, in other words, a work environment that I would not like to be a part of.
While my trip to Ireland was not flawless, filled with ups and downs, successes and failures, and unexpected obstacles, the hard work I put in during the whole experience to improve my IT skills, grow as an individual in the ‘real world’, make new friends and form new relations, and push myself out of my comfort zone are what define this successful trip to me, not just the ability to put it on my resume or post photos online to impress my friends, as those results are not as meaningful as my hard work I put in.