Englishman Abroad: Problems, Challenges, Opportunities

So, a third of the way through the internship it makes sense to look at what some might call ‘problems’ so far. Apart from those relating to work, I’d say you can classify these as to do with Living, Logistics, Leisure, and Language. Yes you’ll notice I like aLLiteration. Sorry… Live with it!

In terms of Living arrangements, if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know it’s not been plain sailing. Living in close quarters with a group of folk you don’t know can be a challenge, especially where there are cultural, generational (in my case), and gender differences. I’m sharing with: a Romanian waiter who, it turns out, has lived in and moved around Spain for the past 13 years; a female will-o-the-wisp of no clear origin, and who has a temperament that swings between extremes to say the least; a Hungarian photographer working for a surf school ; and another I’ve still not met. Still.

Sharing the kitchen and bathroom is a challenge for most. Cupboard choice seems to have a hierarchy, cleaning veers from obsessive to dismissive, and as for sharing the area for drying clothes…! Stealing food and being a ‘noisy nocturnal neighbour’ are bones of friction too.

And that’s just the freezer!

In Logistics I’d include getting about, shopping (food, drink, cleaning products…), And those little things that make life harder by their absence. Hanging space in the room (bought a hook with a sucker for the door); fridge and freezer space (stake a claim) ; recycling (I care, they don’t) ; all annoying when they don’t work. Shopping is now not an issue, once I’ve found local shops for what I need. Oh, and there are the cockroaches. Big Ones. Occasionally.

Just FIVE fruit and veg?

Google and a bit of trial and error have helped with getting around. And doing so on a budget is easy after asking people at work (see ‘Paying for Stuff’ later…). It’s meant I can go sight-seeing at weekends, head to the beach and experience life here instead of the Four Walls of Doom of my room. Yes, think outside ‘the box’! Next challenge, where to get my hair cut…

Finding time for Leisure, and even people to spend it with, is as an issue at the start. The leisure industry in particular is notorious for unsocial hours. Introducing and inviting yourself along may be an option if you’re keen to socialise, but taking advantage of anything that’s going on through or outside work can help stop that feeling of being on your own. And again Google is my saviour, along with a bit of leg work. Your employer will generally know what’s going on, and hopefully give some pointers. Take or leave the suggestions. But don’t ignore the chance for a new experience.

So now to Language. If you’re looking to go to the USA or ‘down under’ don’t dismiss this part. We may all speak English, but they’re variations on a theme. For me I’m in a country where people speak Spanish, but not the same as in Spain. When an ‘autobus’ is a ‘guagua’ you know something is not quite the same! Every new word tried and learned, especially in a context relevant to you, is another step towards better communication and language competence.

Been chasin’ waves…

Again being openly curious and making an effort goes a long way. The same goes for language you use to communicate at work. How should you answer the phone, greet or speak to guests? ‘No problem’ may be OK at home for example, but in ‘civilised’ places ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘my pleasure’ will be expected.

Finally, challenges at Work… isn’t that what I’m here for anyway?

The point of all this is that it’s about perception. If you see problems then the outcome will, more often than not, be less-than-positive. If you can see these as challenges you’ll learn to overcome them. And any chance to learn is an opportunity.

So relish those so-called ‘problems’ … laugh in the face of challenges… and each one will be an opportunity.

Published by John Humphreys

Education and leisure industry professional with over 30 years' experience and a focus on delivering international experiences and employability development.

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