There’s some good news and some bad news. The good news: I’ve finally found a moment to rest and to write! The bad news: I only have this moment because I’m back home. I want to apologize for writing so sporadically, and I hope that the effort I put into these posts will have evened out their inconsistency a bit.
That’s right, I’ve finished my internship and my travels in Europe, and I’m sitting on my couch after binge-watching TV for the first time in months. It’s only been three days but already HEC seems so separate in my mind from my everyday life. So I think it’s times like these when reflection is actually most important.
Funnily enough, the actual work that I did in the office is what I remember the least. But everything I do remember, I owe to the internship. The traveling, the other interns, our bosses, the students we spoke to everyday. The experience itself was so much bigger than a job, but without the job, none of it would happen. And the job, the traveling, and the people I was with all taught me some very important lessons.
- Communicate. Whether you’re unhappy with something a friend said, you feel overwhelmed at work, or are missing home, you should never be afraid to communicate. Tell people feel, what you need, and, where words fail or the language barrier is too great, show what you need instead. Don’t underestimate what eye contact and clear body language can do, if the other person is willing to listen.
- Eat. This may sound simple or silly, but I promise you, everything is better on a full stomach. There were weekends where I was visiting Paris after a long week but wanted nothing more than to head back to Jouy-en-Josas and sleep in my dorm, or better yet, head all the way back to Michigan. I was grumpy, unpleasant to be around, and stressed. I always found, though, that a little bit of food made any situation a lot sunnier. And honestly, if you’re upset about visiting Paris, you know that the real problem is something else entirely.
- Open up. Making friends in new places can be difficult, but it’s also what makes those places home, so don’t be afraid to open up. I don’t mean that you should spill secrets or anything like that. Instead, have an open attitude when meeting new people. Ask questions. Smile. Allow yourself the chance to relax and get to know others, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you consider them to be friends.
- Breath. Similar to eating, this seems extremely simple. Still, when you’re stressed your breathing is often thrown off it’s normal pattern. For me, I usually breath less than I need to. If I remind myself to breath, I find myself more centered and the situation is much easier to deal with. Whether this is being overwhelmed with something at work or some sort of conflict with a friend, staying calm is almost always the best option.
Trying to put any of this experience into words is so impossible that it’s almost painful. Should I describe the scent of coffee in a Cafe in Paris? Or the taste of Ratatoullie at a country house in the North of France? Maybe the feeling of my ears popping as we flew to Barcelona, or the flashing lights on the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Or maybe the sound of the tracks rattling on the Metro.
I could write a million words and never fully explain what I’ve experienced. But I can very shortly say what those experiences have done for me; they’ve changed my life. Even now, I view the world differently, and I haven’t even begun to digest everything that’s happened. I’m more capable than I ever thought, but also more ignorant than I expected. I found weaknesses and strengths and talents and I’ve realized some things that I’m passionate about – and some that I have no interest in at all. I imagine that an experience like this, such an intense two months, is the kind of thing that you remember forever. The friends, the job, the country, all of it.
And so, I want to thank everyone who helped me get there, be there, and have the most amazing summer of my life.