The visual artist Michael Bobak once said “all progress takes place outside the comfort zone”. I’m sure it was the inward driving force in each of us that brought me and my fellow volunteer colleagues on a journey to Crystal Industrial in Antalya, Turkey.
I came here through AIESEC from Melbourne, Australia to be part in the #GlobalCrystal project. I am studying Mechanical Engineering at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, and have completed three years of the four-year bachelor degree so far.
I chose this particular project because it looked quite different from most other AIESEC projects I had seen in various places. I also wanted to gain some kind of experience with business and marketing as it interests me and I believe the knowledge I gain from the experience will be quite valuable for me to learn how big companies work, especially if I decide to start my own business as well.
Additionally, meeting and working with people coming from different countries is an incredible opportunity and I have found it extremely interesting to learn how things work in other cultures – the similarities and some of the striking differences. Knowing other cultures well allows us to connect with people more strongly, allowing for better communication. This is important for not only doing better business, but also forming better, long-lasting relationships.
Accompanying me in this project are Jazmin Cortijo from Peru, Madina Atabaeva from Kyrgyzstan, Mohammad Bilawal from Bahrain, and Sally Ahmad from Egypt. Living with people from these different backgrounds encourages us to develop our listening and communication skills. Due to language barriers we have to also pay close attention to non-verbal communication and we can’t speak the same way to everyone to get a message across.
I was impressed by the look of the company on my first day tour here. Things are well organised. The work environment has been more pleasant than I had expected before arriving. I have felt quite comfortable so far. The staff in our foreign trade department team is quite friendly and respectful. We all feel at ease when approaching them for help or even just to strike a general conversation during lunch. They are always punctual and work hard every day on their jobs, which sets a good example for the other volunteers coming in to motivate them to work hard for the company as well.
Also, for most of us it’s our first time sharing a house with anyone other than a family member for a considerable period of time. It’s a challenge for us but we have learned to adapt quickly in my opinion. We all have a set of challenges to deal with, such as being far away from close friends and family. Furthermore, not being able to speak Turkish proficiently makes it difficult to interact with the locals – once we used all resources at our disposal, including paper, pen, sign language, a translator app and a Turkish customer who spoke a little English to try to effectively communicate to a shop owner.
This opportunity at Crystal is making us face events that challenge our mindset. An internship abroad gives us the chance to travel to new places, make new friends, make new memories and learn new skills. But it also tests our abilities; it teaches us first-hand what intercultural communication really is; helps us become more open minded and more culturally aware. I will return to Melbourne with more confidence and independence, and many great memories.