Well, I am finishing up the last week of my internship here in Zagreb. It has been an interesting journey and I have learned a lot throughout my time here. There are definitely a few things I wish I had known before starting my internship. First is that the work culture is very laid back. My coworker told me how they have a rich social life because they do not put such an emphasis on their work life. They are not running around trying to finish a project before the deadline or working 16 hours a day. Instead, they work at their own pace and go out and have coffee whenever they please. It is interesting to see how different this internship is compared to my last internship in Poland. While I was in Warsaw, I had a structured 9-5 day job and there was some organization as to what I was supposed to do each day. With my internship, they didn’t care where I worked, whether that was a cafe or at my house. I could work wherever I wanted as long as I completed my projects by the given deadlines. This was kind of a shock to me at first because I was expecting to be in the office all day, but I liked being about to go out and work in different places. It let me experience Zagreb on my own while fulfilling my projects. I never felt rushed and I could put the time and energy needed to do my work well. It took some time for me to get adjusted to this different work atmosphere, but it was nice to experience.
If someone were to partake in this internship next year, I would tell them to be prepared to work individually and at your own pace without strict guidelines. For example, I talked to two of my coworkers about a project for about ten minutes. Then, they told me to just start researching on the given topic and that was basically my project for the rest of my internship. People weren’t always checking up on me or seeing if I was doing it correctly because they assumed I would be able to handle it. It was kind of odd for me to experience because I am used to people checking up with me and seeing how things are going. This experience wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was just different than what I am used to. For this internship, basically be prepared to be fully independent with whatever project you are given. Of course, you can ask for help and people will gladly assist you. It just takes some adaptation from what we are used to in the US!
This internship has influenced my future career plans because I was considering research as a possible path for after graduation. Over the past month I have been researching holocaust/war crimes/genocide denial through court cases and laws in different countries. I found the topic interesting and I enjoyed the content, but I found it difficult for me to read for hours and hours each day. Honestly, I feel like it would be hard for anyone to concentrate on something for such a long period of time. Ideally, I would be able to research and work on other projects at the same time. Overall, I would not completely rule out working as a researcher as long as I had other things to work on as well. Also, I would not mind working for another NGO in the future! The work YIHR is doing in Croatia is amazing and they have some great projects going on throughout the region.
I enjoyed my time in Zagreb because it helped me grow as a person and adapt to a completely different work environment than what I am used to. I would recommend this internship to someone who can be independent in their work and is creative with the limited guidelines they have to work with. Plus, Croatia has a nice coast so that is a perk to this internship!