With four weeks of work already done, it is hard to believe that I have made it to the halfway point of my program so quickly. I stayed in Paris this weekend, as I realized that after several fast-paced weeks, it would be good to take some time to relax and get to know the local area a bit more. I can see many differences between my first week and now, both in terms of my familiarity with the city and my level of comfort and confidence at work. My internship has not been without numerous challenges and mistakes, but ultimately, I believe that these events are what contribute most to my overall improvement as a person and as a professional.
I would say that one of the primary soft skills that I have improved the most thus far is communication. Given that my French is not perfect, I must be very deliberate with my word choice and sentence structure, and find multiple ways to explain something or ask a question to ensure that I am understood by my coworkers and clients alike. French culture is also a lot more conducive to the expression of opinions than that of America, which means that I have also honed my abilities to express my professional opinions in a clear, concise, and polite manner to my coworkers. Finally, I have also been able to learn many words and expressions that I would not get the opportunity to learn in class, such as hospitality industry jargon and slang. In classes, we tend to learn a more general set of vocabulary and expressions, meaning that we do not have the time to learn vocabulary specific to a given industry or profession. Thankfully, my coworkers had the patience to teach me this critical new vocabulary, and since I use the new words nearly every day, I have been able to master them. I have also picked up on some slang that is used in less formal situations, as my coworkers and I have conversations between projects, or when there are no clients to help. As a result of improving the soft skill of communication, I can also say that I have improved my hard skill of French proficiency. I am not fluent yet, but I have certainly come a long way already.
French is not the only language in which my communication skills have improved, but English as well. Oftentimes, I will be speaking with clients in English not because it is also their first language, but because it is the only common language between us. I have thus learned how to be more clear and deliberate, and to pause and reflect on what I am saying, even though I see myself as completely fluent in the English language. There have been multiple times where I have had to repeat what I said more slowly, or to come up with a more simple or alternative way of explaining something. This has ultimately allowed me to learn how to express myself in multiple ways, as well as how to ensure the clarity of my message across numerous types of audiences.
I believe that my global experience has provided me with the patience, empathy, and adaptability that are necessary in many cross-cultural situations, especially when working with clients. Being abroad has not always been an easy experience, and I have had plenty of times where French people would get annoyed with my imperfect language skills, or I had to struggle through an interaction in order to be understood. Therefore, I can easily empathize with people from other countries whose English may not be perfect. When working with clients who may struggle a bit with speaking to me in English, I am always patient, and do what I can to help them out. I know from my own experiences how it feels for someone to get annoyed or impatient when you cannot speak their language perfectly, so I make it my goal to ensure that nobody I work with feels pressured or nervous.
In any workplace, communication is one of the most critical soft skills for employees to have, while in a global workplace, the hard skill of knowing other languages is also extremely useful. I am grateful for all of the growth that I have experienced during my program thus far, and I hope to continue to develop my skills as I work towards an international career in the future.