By: Joakim I. Andersen
“So much to do, so much to see, so what’s wrong with taking the back streets?” There is a little Shrek in all of us, right? Sharing some of his characteristics: obviously not being the most extrovert (even a little shy) – that, onions, needs to be opened layer by layer, and kind of comfortable in my daily routines – when was the right time to take action, step out of the comfort zone and challenge myself? Rhetorical questions rarely need an answer – it’s too obvious!
I wasn’t even planning to go to India – so the lyrics actually applies even more to my story of ending up here. My “original plan” was to try something in Europe or the US, without much luck I have to admit. I was on the brink of just giving up applying through Opportunities Portal (a website where you can find all AIESEC opportunities worldwide. But I’ve learned through experience to grab my opportunities with both hands; you never know when it’s too late, and it is an attitude I’ve tried to adopt on a daily basis. So when I was finally invited for an interview I basically just said ‘Yes”, without thinking more about what I said yes to – actually without knowing I had applied for an opportunity in India, believe it or not! And when the recruiter offered me the position, I again, a little surprised (and amazed), spontaneously pronounced the two vowels followed by the consonant. Perhaps unable to declining anything or without thinking properly through my answers in general, I am now more than halfway through my 6 months internship, working as a business development executive in a software company, in a small city (by local standards).
I still wonder why I got the business development position, as my master degree in business administration is more specialized towards strategy and organizational leadership than to marketing. At least it’s related to business I guess… Maybe the company was a little desperate for people with Nordic language capabilities, and thinking “he’ll just have to catch up with the marketing part later”? That will remain pure speculation from my side. At least I’m gaining international experience, and I’m getting my skills and knowledge challenged regularly.
So what about a cultural exchange? I honestly believe I’ve seen more cows these three past months than all my soon 26 years accumulated – and maybe animals in general. Probably it’s not a cultural concern; I just had to get it out of my system. Anyway, there are certain differences from the culture I am used to, and there are pros and cons: for example, I have not gotten (and probably will not get) used to the traffic down here. For me, it’s a true chaos. A lack of discipline maybe, or simply not respecting traffic rules? I don’t know, not important, just different. And also that personal spheres are foreign words here. At the other side, if you get a strong enough bond to an Indian, he/she is extremely helpful. In general, Indians are very including and hospitable people, which is something I really appreciate; something we can learn from back home maybe? Also, I have even purchased a “kurta” (a regional piece of clothing)and participated in some festival activities. At least I look a little more Indian that way. Looking different is a strange experience nonetheless; it takes time getting used to people staring (even though I’m not green) and, especially at tourist spots, that people want to take selfies with you, just as another attraction. But I guess it’s a little funny too. What’s not that funny, to be honest, is the food and hence one’s digestion. Why does it have to be that spicy? And everyone single one of the other interns have experienced the same.But you get toughened by it I guess. I just hope that, when I go back, I’ll still be able to taste some food – that my tongue isn’t killed, and that going back to my regular diet will not be affected by me literally being a vegetarian for half a year.
A little bit back to AIESEC (the reason why I am writing this) and my professional experience: what still made me confident I didn’t do anything I really didn’t want to, was my past AIESEC experiences – this is, in fact, my third one: My first experience was a volunteer project in Uganda (the summer of 2015), followed by one year as a team member in the local chapter of AIESEC at my University, and now this professional internship. And AIESEC gives youth opportunities to grow and learn, without a performance-based approach, as it can take the time to evolve and some tries to get things right. In fact, I learn things all the time. So, even though not all the things I am doing in this internship feels that relevant for my future career, there are so many unmeasurable, intangible (soft) skills, values, and knowledge that I’ll take with me wherever I end up in addition to, more importantly, new good friends. I may be a few scorched taste buds poorer, but I am a lot of experiences richer. And all of this on the expense of stepping out of my comfort zone. Is it worth it? Right – this Shrek doesn’t answer rhetorical questions.
Do you want to Work abroad like me and grab a life changing chance? Apply here.
Joakim I. Andersen, 2016.