This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern abroad in Krakow, Poland. Now, I know what you’re thinking- why in the world would I travel thousands of miles for a summer internship? I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone by challenging myself to gain a more global view of business. My corporate experience had strictly been based in America before I had the opportunity to go abroad. Working with skilled professionals at the IBM Client Innovation Center in Poland gave me a chance to appreciate the importance of cultural understanding and diversity.
As a leadership development intern at IBM, I was quickly immersed in the culture of the company. I participated in client visits, boot camps, seminars, and discussions of a variety of topics with IBM’s specialists. One of the most enlightening aspects of working for IBM was meeting for lunch with “IBMers” from functional divisions of the company. Not only did I hear firsthand about the role that their culture and background had on their work, but also how they each managed their work-life balance.
In Poland, I noticed that people are much more practical and straightforward than those I have worked for in the United States, where we often have bells and whistles that are not necessary to complete tasks. I noticed these cultural differences in the workplace and also in my homestay.
I chose to stay with a Polish family during my time abroad and was able to find them through networking with my family friends. I brought welcoming gifts from California for my host family and even started an international book club with their daughter to help us keep in touch. I was fully immersed in Polish culture and traditions; they introduced me to everything from the best restaurant for pierogis to the “locals only” café.
The differences between our cultures became increasingly apparent as I lived in their home and noticed variances in the way that we eat, interact, and express ourselves. For example, the family that I lived with kept asking me why I was so excited all the time. Apparently, in Polish culture, it is unheard of to express enthusiasm as often as I had been! I never would have known these things if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone and gotten this internship.
Interning abroad was such an eye-opening experience. I lived the culture, assimilated quickly, stretched myself beyond belief, overcame challenges, and was able to see and understand first-hand how diversity enhances the business itself.
Pearson Students: How were you challenged to step out of your comfort zone during an internship? Share by commenting below!
Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog? If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started!