Directionless | Blog #4

The largest obstacle I’ve had to face during this internship is the cultural differences between work in the United States and work in Portugal. In the United States, everything is very clear: when you start work, when you can leave, what you’re responsible for, by when, how… In Portugal, not so much. When I arrived, I was told to write a systematic review and given a rough timeline. I have no research experience, and I had no idea what a systematic review was, but there I was left to accomplish it. So I got to work.
The work was and still is entirely self-directed, and I learned how to conduct research from a combination of knowledge from another intern here and the internet. I’m not sure if I’m doing the best job, but I am doing my best to learn. Check-ins were postponed, and postponed again, and when they happened, they weren’t entirely conclusive.
Deadlines don’t mean much here. Work is almost unbearably flexible and independent sometimes. But that is just a cultural difference, and one I’m coming to accept. I’m thankful for the autonomy I have, and that I’m able to learn how to conduct a systematic review first-hand, because I believe that is the best way to learn. I’m happy to be treated like an adult, with the insertion that I will complete a task on my own, and that I will take the initiative to come to my bosses if or when I have questions or concerns. I’m grateful that this work is so flexible and independent, because it allows me to also spend time immersing myself in the culture around me, not just working.
But I can’t downplay the challenge of not being held to any expectations or deadlines, because it takes a lot of effort to hold yourself accountable for the best work you can do. It’s difficult to be the only one who cares when work gets done, or how well, or even if it gets done at all.
But that’s what I’m trying to do, because it’s important to me to produce quality work. I hold myself to a high standard and every day have to remind myself of that, that this is a task that I want to be proud of. It’s a great lesson in discipline, dedication, and motivation.

One thought on “Directionless | Blog #4

  • July 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm
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    I understand how difficult it must be. It can be really hard to be enthusiastic when you want to learn new things and take on projects, but no one is asking or pushing you to do so. But, like you said, this is a great learning experience and I’m sure you will come out a more independent and motivated individual 🙂

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