Changing from student life to working life taught blogger Kaavya Raveendran a lot of things: about seriousness, mingling problems, and Dutch cake traditions.
© Sven Menschel
A few months ago, when I wrote about the butterflies in my stomach on the first day of my internship, I also promised to write about my experience at the end. So here I am, fulfilling my promise as I have finally reached the end of my internship. Working in a company for the first time teaches you many things. I learned a lot. Most of those things I expected to learn – but some really surprised me.
I’ve been living the student life for as long as I can remember. That lifestyle turned out to be a pretty big contrast to work life -- especially because I worked in a different country than the one I grew up in. Entering a work culture is like an upgrade for your professional and personal skills. You naturally start being more structured, punctual, serious, and of course: active. Even more important: here’s where your personal skills – the ones you groomed so far -- finally color your individual personality.
The liberty to make mistakes
The best part of being an intern is that you get the opportunity to apply your knowledge in a practical setup and obtain real life results; you have the flexibility to try your ideas while still having the liberty to make mistakes and learn from them. So at the end you get to witness a perfect amalgamation of scientific principles with practical approaches. As a student with constant fascination for my field I really enjoyed this part of my internship.
But the part of me that’s curious about theoretical depth wasn’t satisfied. In organizations running across a huge network, people often rely on spontaneous behavior and mostly troubleshooting ideas. This is where I feel that the scientific relevance is often sidelined. Being a fresher often makes you wonder where to really draw a line or make a compromise, because in a work setup appropriateness seems to be much more important than theoretical backing.
Hard to mingle
Dutch work culture is very chill. With a low hierarchal distance and friendly work atmosphere, one can really enjoy the work. The concept of working together and helping each other out is one of the major things that caught my attention. And all the colleagues, fueled with their coffees, marching towards completing their work and hours pretty effectively. That was very different to what I am used to, and I really could use this work attitude to strike the right work-life balance.
Being an international member is not always a boon. Although our English speaking and presentation skills are appreciated, we are the ones who have to try the hardest to really mingle with the rest. Not knowing to speak Dutch negates the possibility to take part in social interactions regularly and so you end up being perceived as a quiet and shy person. Environments with more international ratios are much more welcoming and you end up making great friends.
I was amused by the working traditions of the Dutch in many ways. One of which is the ‘Cake tradition’. If it is your birthday or you have some good news or even if you are leaving, the tradition says that you bake a cake and share the joy with the people around. I was really fond of this custom, as everyone unanimously takes time to celebrate with you. Sticking to the tradition with a personal touch of my own, for my goodbye I took things a little East and made everyone Indian sweets!