What I Learned in Spain

spainThis guest post was written by Christina Kach, an NU alum who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management at NU. This post originally appeared on catchcareers.com and was re-posted with permission for the author. 

I recently had the chance to go to Madrid for a two week work assignment and I loved every minute of it. The new group of people I got to meet and work with, a new city to explore, a challenging new work assignment.  During those two weeks, I learned a great deal – both personally and professionally. Here are a few of my reflections from the trip:

Experiencing life – For a long time I’ve been a believer of getting out into the world, exploring, and going on adventures to experience new things. This trip to Spain was no exception. I got out as much as I could to see the city of Madrid. We can get used to our everyday lives and forget there is so much more to explore and spark a curiosity for life.

Getting outside your comfort zone – octopus, blood sausage, anchovies…those are just a few of the new foods I tried during the trip. Our comfort zone may be our happy place, where we feel confident and at ease but it is so much more fun and so much better for our learning, in life and at work, to go beyond. I believe that part of my rich experience of the trip was my willingness to try the new (my first go at espresso) and my new stories to add to my life (of that time I had my first espresso).

Being grounded – With so many fun distractions in an exciting city, it can be hard to concentrate. At times the trip felt a little like a school field trip and a little like a vacation, but I was still there for work. I still had to remain focused at the task at hand to be a good teammate and employee. For me, I just reminded myself of why I was there, to do a good job for my team and the team in Spain, and any extra time to explore was just a wonderful bonus. I also made sure I stayed healthy by working out, eating well, and getting sleep.

Appreciating other ways of life – In high school, my Spanish teacher taught us not just the language but about the culture. While I knew a little of the culture going into the trip, actually getting to live right in it was eye opening. I think this was the most interesting part of the trip and my favorite learning – seeing another culture and a new country. I hope I get to do more of this world exploring in my life.

You can survive without Wi-Fi –I had Wi-Fi in the hotel – so I was able to stay connected to family, friends, U.S. news and emails.  When I ventured outside the hotel – Wi-Fi no longer, I was on my own. That meant navigating the Metro, streets, menus, and everything else without having my phone available to check. And I was fine. I knew enough Spanish I was able to translate words, the metro map was easy, and the bus tour I took helped me recognize landmarks for navigation. It felt good to do it all on my own without googling every question that came my way. And it reminded me of when people actually talked out issues vs. just looking them up immediately.

Do you have any travel experiences that have enriched your life like Spain did for me?

Christina Kach is an Associate Consultant on the Continuous Improvement team for a financial services company in Boston, MA. Prior to this role, she spent five years at a Government Defense Company focusing on Lean and process improvement in a manufacturing environment, while also completing an Operations Leadership Development Program. Christina holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management, also from Northeastern.

Christina invites you to connect with her via Twitter (@ChristinaKach), email (Cfkach@gmail.com) or at her blog for young professionals www.catchcareers.com

Image source: Selfemployedinspain.com

Work. Location. Culture.

 

image generated by Wordle.com

image generated by Wordle.com

This article was written by Megan Fernandes, a 4th year international affairs student at NU as a guest blogger for The Works.

Work. Location. Culture. Last year, a professor told me that these are the three distinct elements I need to consider when looking for a job. A few years ago, I might have written this off fairly quickly, but after having a few varied work experiences under my belt, I realized they are all equally important to my happiness and success. Between my first and current co-op, I’ve learned what I need in a workplace to thrive professionally as well as what I need in regards to location and relationships to be happy. Like many other NU students- I have definitely learned what I don’t like in work, even before I figured out what I do.

Work. As college students, we’ve all been encouraged to pursue areas of study that we are passionate about in the hopes of finding a career where we feel we are making a difference. However, I’ve learned over time that feeling too committed to any particular job, industry or institution early on can be very limiting. I had my entire college career planned out by the fall of sophomore year, but so many different opportunities and challenges were presented along the way that threw my plans to the wind and changed what I had previously thought was a priority. Neither the work nor the industry I was in were much of a consideration in choosing my past two co-ops (sustainable agriculture in Cameroon and asset management in Boston), but that doesn’t mean I’ve learned any less about the kind of work I want to do eventually. Being able to stay flexible and transfer over as many professional and social skills between jobs, no matter how different they are, will help keep you positive and confident wherever you go.

Location. Because we attend such a diverse school that offers so many opportunities to leave campus, NU students, more than anyone, understand the importance of location. Cities around the world are becoming more international and physically going and living somewhere else isn’t as difficult as it once was. The big challenge is being OK with being uncomfortable and really giving each new place a real chance; keeping in mind that you may decide, despite your utmost respect for their culture and way of life, that it’s just not for you. Cameroon taught me that, specifically by showing me how different cultural values, social and economic factors can directly dictate the population’s lifestyle. Doing two co-ops in Boston has also taught me that I like living in cities and getting to know a city helps me feel at home.

Culture. Nowadays, people are thinking more broadly about what it means to employ people who are good “fits”. Thinking about if you can sit next to someone 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is more of a consideration in hiring than ever before. It works the other way around as well. I have worked for a company whose mission and work I was highly inspired by, but the internal culture was unexciting and stifling. I have also worked for a company in an industry I am not stimulated by and whose work I often find routine, but its internal culture is more open, laid-back, and appreciative than anywhere else I’ve experienced. This combination has allowed me to see that I need a relaxed culture and the encouragement to form personal and professional relationships to maintain my personal happiness and motivation at work.

As much as it goes against my initial view when I started school, simply working on something you love isn’t enough. I always thought that if you found what it is that you wanted to do, you’d be golden, but I’ve realized that loving what is physically around you, both the location and the people, makes your work even more meaningful and makes you even better at what you do.

Megan Fernandes is an international affairs student in her fourth year at Northeastern with academic interests revolving around global poverty alleviation. Megan is originally from Houston, but went to high school in Bangkok, Thailand before moving to Boston. She loves learning about other cultures and would be happy to show new people around Boston!