Unstructured and Uncertain | #2

This internship has been a test of my independence and drive. I expected living in a foreign country to challenge my independence, but I had anticipated a structured program that would guide me through the experience. The prospect of volunteering in local organizations and meeting members of the community excited me, but with the expectation of being chauffeured as a special visitor to community events and accomplishing clear tasks at my volunteer sites. No, I was dropped into the middle of a maze without instructions on how, where, when or why to get out. At first, I slumped.
What happened to the outlined schedule they gave us? Where were the cultural events, the city tours, the community activities? After the first few days, where was our coordinator? I cautiously managed the bus route. I scavenged for some sort of task or instructions at my volunteer site. I sat in my apartment and called home, complaining of boredom. One message of guidance our coordinator imparted before disappearing from our daily lives, “You have to be prepared to put yourself into uncomfortable situations”.
This lack of structure and instructions challenged me in a necessary way. I had to feel very uncomfortable before I could even start to feel comfortable, then satisfied, then fulfilled. After a few days of self pity, I set to work. I attended social events for foreigners, joined an international student trip to the North (where I met one of my close friends on the basis of our vegetarianism), doubled my volunteer time and number of placements, hunted down community events, joined walking tours of the city, and learned to be okay with eating alone at a restaurant. At work, I asked questions and offered help until I figured out the routine enough to actually be helpful. I clued in on how to prod the residents at the senior home to open up to conversation. Soon enough, I had a rhythm going. I am expected at dinner every Monday night with my roommate’s cousins, go to a language exchange program on Wednesdays, sometimes salsa, tango or bachata dancing on Tuesdays, and exploring inside and outside the city on weekends. I have a few close friends that greet me everyday at the senior home and have started to tell me they will miss me when I leave.
Though it required more time, patience and discomfort than anticipated, I am discovering the fulfillment and depth of experiences and relationships that I expected to find upon arrival.

Melissa B

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the positions,strategies or opinions of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

One thought on “Unstructured and Uncertain | #2

  • July 20, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Wow Melissa! What a challenging (yet extremely developmental) experience…thanks for sharing!


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