I have to start by saying I am not a “business person”. I have wanted to be a teacher on some level for a long time, with most of my time in college spent with the goal of being a university professor one day. However, given that there isn’t one track to get there, I have tried to fill the time with engaging experiences that I might be able to draw on down the line. Life is long, things happen, who knows where I’ll end up? That being said, I do think this background noise in my head of “someday I’ll be teaching” has colored the way I interact in a more traditional business setting, especially when students are part of the equation. This was perhaps no more clear than when a group of students from Halcyon International School came for a summer camp program.
For the most part at INCroatia, my job has been trying to reach out to organizations and facilitate an experience for them. If it is a potential client (sports team, university) I am telling them all about the great and affordable trips we can offer, if it is an existing customer I am helping make it happen (rentals, bookings, ect), and this felt more like business communication to me, and was by and large what I prepared myself for at INCroatia. This got a little bit more complicated when Billi (our head of education) said that for one of our camps with Halcyon, an international IB school in London, she wanted me to be a chaperone for the students. There would be around 13 of them, with two teachers, and I would be acting as the representative of INCroatia while they had a weeklong camp, learning about the ecology of the Adriatic Sea, and scuba-diving to interact with it more effectively.
Now, I think I have pretty extensive experience working with kids. I have worked at summer camps, volunteered at elementary, middle and high schools, but to me these felt different than the way the opportunity with Halcyon was presented. Given that I was being evaluated primarily as a representative of INCroatia, I felt like I was more of a third party than in those previous experiences. The day-long introductory seminar did little to clear up anything I felt, and left me with more of a general sense of confusion as to my role. Waiting for the students at the airport, I felt a vague anxiety. Should I try to bond with them? The teachers? How exactly would I toe that line?
As with most anxieties, it really came to naught. My time with the students and teachers was really rewarding not because I made our relationship feel like a business one, exactly the opposite. By the end of the trip I felt like I had helped organize a trip for some friends of mine. Maybe it was working with teenagers and teachers, but it became clear to me that the same kind of professionalism I expected of myself in conducting other business with INCroatia could co-exist with a more easygoing relationship building. Ivan (my boss) has preached this kind of focus on individual relationships, what do the people around you want, and my time with Halcyon gave me a chance to put it into practice in a way emails just cannot convey. Over the course of my time with them, we became more comfortable with one another, and this comfort made it much easier to deal with the natural things that arise in a group trip (changing schedules, late transport, ect). Even though I may not see my professional trajectory headed towards a more traditional “business” setting, experiences like this one have given me the confidence to adapt, and conduct business in a way that makes sense to me.