What my internship in Medellín taught me
Saying goodbye to Medellín – by Luis Sosa, The Intern Group’s 2015 Scholarship Winner
My last week in Medellín was very hectic. The deadline for my project reminded me of the end of the semester; when everything is due and there is no time. I stayed in the office later than usual so I could complete my project and obtain the best possible results. In a recent conversation with my sister I mentioned to her how during the past week and a half of my internship I had been working longer hours trying to make as much progress as I could. Her response to my comment was “that’s real life…” I had heard that from a few other people but I had not yet processed what it meant. Looking back at it now, I was probably shocked by how much I had immersed myself in my project. However, although the hours were long and at times exhausting, I didn’t mind because I knew that what I was doing was important and that it would have an impact on the lives of those around me. I guess another takeaway from my internship is that time becomes irrelevant when it is spent on something important that you genuinely care about.
The lengthy days did not discourage me. I soon realized that a lot of successful people invest endless hours in what they do, because they love it. Despite the fact that success is not solely determined by the amount of hours spent on a project, the more time you spend revising and polishing, the more likely it is you’ll get better results. Similarly, working long hours taught me to make the best out of a long day. This is a lesson I truly appreciate because realistically speaking, that is what life is about; making the best out of every moment or situation. Does enjoying the process matter? Yes. Is it guaranteed that you will you enjoy it? No. Like everything else in life there will be things about our jobs that we love and there will be others that we won’t. Regardless, the important thing is that at the end of the day you feel satisfaction and gratification for the job you are doing, and the goals you have accomplished. This was yet another real life lesson I learned during my internship.
But that was not it for lessons. Staying late also made me develop a deeper sense of respect for my coworkers and the work they did. Many of them were more mature than I was, and were at different stages in their lives. For instance, most of them had families to go to, which opened my eyes to how committed they were to their jobs. I can only imagine how hard it must be for a parent to stay late at work, and not be home earlier to spend more time with his or her children. After this experience I definitely have a broader sense of respect toward working parents. I also learned that real life gets more and more challenging as we undertake different responsibilities. I can only imagine how hard it is to juggle being a parent, a partner in a relationship, and a full time employee.
In addition to all the pressure of my project deadline, my last week also brought along the goodbyes, many of which were very touching. It is amazing how you can develop such strong bonds with others in such a short period of time. I am a people’s person. I like to talk to others and get to know them, and I also like people to know me, as I firmly believe that you can only create meaningful and strong relationships with people when you know them and they know you. It does not matter what type of relationship it is, if you are not genuine then neither are your relationships. I got to know people beyond the generic greetings. Getting to know my colleagues created a feeling of familiarity that made a radical difference in my internship. This is perhaps the most important thing I took with me from Medellín, the people I met and their stories. And I will not say that we became best friends during those six weeks, but I did get very close to them. And to say the least, that is a first step toward any type of healthy relationship.
I still keep in touch with some of the people I met, and I feel that those relationships have a long future ahead. I learned that even if you do not become best friends with everyone, but you do become really good friends with someone, you can call it a success. We are not meant to be best friends with everybody. That is not the point of friendship, but it is what makes us appreciate the real friends we have. But we can learn how to be sincere and honest human beings. And these values make a great foundation for a great friendship with someone that could, in the future, become your best friend.
When the last day of my internship arrived, I had a great feeling of satisfaction, for I felt the work I had done was important, well done, and served a purpose. I felt even more satisfaction knowing that my project was useful to the company and the people that would be impacted by it. I left Medellín with many memories, experiences and amazing friends that I will hold on to for many years. As I walked out of the company for the very last time, I felt that I had accomplished my mission. It was not a sad goodbye, because it did not feel like I was leaving anything behind. On the very contrary, I felt that I would need extra luggage to pack all the goodness I had found.
Sosa is studying both Diplomacy and International Relations and Latin American studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. He hopes to someday work in Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America.