In my previous blog post, ‘A Working Holiday’, I discussed how important it has become, for us students, to try and get a form of international work experience as early in our careers as possible.
I am sure you agree with me that working in a foreign country can be scary, but it is definitely worth the effort.
During these past two months, I had been working in the accounting department of a multinational organization in Greece, and I thought I would let you know how I got on.
The main problem is "logistics", e.g. where do you stay for how long and how difficult it is to make all these arrangements. Being able to "work around" the logistics problem demonstrates the motivation one should have, in order to arrange an international internship. Employers are usually "attracted" to potential employees who have the ability to find solutions to everyday problems quickly and accurately. Regarding my "logistics" problem, I was lucky enough to have friends and relatives in Greece and it was possible to stay with them during my internship.
Another big problem was, of course, the language. In the beginning I was afraid that my communication skills (in Greek) are going to be a problem. Being bilingual, the extent of me speaking Greek was at home, and with friends and family. You can imagine my frustration when I was trying to understand (as fast as possible) what my colleagues where talking about, and of course my embarrassment, when I thought I said the wrong thing and I was waiting for confirmation that they understood what I said. After the first couple of days, everyone got used to my Greek accent and with a lot of goodwill from my colleagues that problem sorted itself out.
Although two months are not long enough, I believe that I got a good understanding of the culture and methodologies of the organization.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the company, even though based in Greece, was organized in a typical Anglo-Saxon way with a lot of clearly defined/standardized procedures and clear separation of tasks. As this was the first time I was working in a finance department, I found it very interesting and exciting, even though sometimes the tasks were very repetitive. I spent a lot of time processing invoices from suppliers and made sure that the database was always up-to-date. The biggest challenge was to locate the occasional missing invoice, which as usual, was either misfiled or on the floor behind the recycling bin, which is the most dangerous place for an invoice to be.
Now that my internship has drawn to a close, I can say that it has been a very enjoyable and educational experience. Not only did I get the hands-on experience I needed but also, and more importantly for me, this experience has boosted my confidence. As students, in the early stages of our careers, we rely a lot on the "goodwill" shown to us by our potential employers, in order to get some hands-on training. In the current business environment, being able to get some experience has become a real challenge.
Regarding this summer’s internship I can only say that I will be forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me and I am hoping that they will continue to do so for other students.
Ellie’s previous blog post