Before arriving in Jamaica, I imagined many times what it would be like when I got here. I thought about the area I would live, what I would do for fun and most importantly, I thought about my job. Now that I am here, I realized that was a waste of time because nothing I imagined is close to the reality. Everything is new and different and there was nothing that I could truly do to prepare myself. Everything I thought I knew about my job description completely changed and my initial reaction was discomfort. I thought this is not what I was prepared to do, however, once the initial feeling of discomfort went away, a new feeling emerged…excitement! I was excited because although my experience in my new position was limited, I have a list of skills on my resume that say I am more than qualified to do this job. Who knew that those adjectives I used to describe myself under the skills section would be vital to being successful during my time here in Jamaica not only at work but also in my everyday life:
Flexible– If you can’t bend, you will break! You have to be flexible in any new environment. Understanding that nothing is concrete and that things change as often as the weather (except in Jamaica where it is always hot). Also, keeping in mind that as the needs of the organization change, you need to be willing to change with them and support it in any way possible and recognize that a lack of experience is not an excuse because there are always opportunities to learn. I came here expecting to one job, but ended up doing something different. I could have been upset about that but I chose not to because I understood that there was no longer a need for me to fill the previous position. In addition to being flexible at the work place, I have learned how to do the same on a daily basis. For intense, flexibility around the concept of time here is important to maintaining your sanity especially for a person like me who takes punctuality very seriously. Jamaica has its own time zone that no one else in the world knows about, it’s called late!
Resourceful– To be an effective intern, you need to be resourceful. Using what you do know, to help figure out what you don’t know. Using the things around me, the people I know and the tools available to figure things out is 80% of how most of my work gets done. Whether you have to figure out how to write a memorandum of understanding or how to get rid of an ant infestation, Google always has the answer!
Dedicated– For the most part this experience will be very rewarding but it can also be a very challenging. How I deal with the challenges is a true testament of my dedication. It can be very easy to quit when things are not going my way or when my job or living situation becomes increasingly difficult but that is when I remind myself why I’m here. This way of thinking will be helpful the next time a mouse enters my apartment without permission because instead of packing my bags immediately and booking the next flight home, I will instead simply zip my bags up and pray that none of the mouse’s friends are snuggling nicely with my clothes.
This experience will be an opportunity to learn for all of us and a wonderful way to really put those skills and abilities (that we boast about) on our resume to the test. The first step is realizing that everything will be different, and there is no such thing as ordinary, customary or habitual and the things that we are accustomed to and typical to our daily life, will no longer be part of our routine. Eliminating those words from our vocabulary and embracing the new and different things will be important. Once we do that, the true adventure can begin. Leaving my comfort zone in Canada was challenging but it will be there when I get back, until then, embracing the discomfort will be my new norm.