Do not be scared

by Demi Ivangean and Denise van Dijk

The final students to share their story are two Facility Management students currently doing internships in Lisbon, Portugal. Although their internships are at different organisations, their experiences during the corona-crisis have been very similar, so they decided to write this testimonial together.

Demi en Denise in Portugal. Picture provided by Demi Ivangean & Denise van Dijk.

What’s your personal situation like during this pandemic, and why did you decide to stay in Portugal?

Messages about COVID-19, a lot of deaths, a fast spreading virus, strict measures, lockdowns; we heard about all of these things. This brought us to a difficult choice: shall we continue our internships or is it better to return to the Netherlands? This was a decision that only we could take, but with this, there were a lot of opinions from our families, as well as the colleagues from internship companies and school. With all these different opinions, we made the decision to continue this adventure and to stay in Lisbon. We did so because the situation in the Netherlands was even worse than in Portugal. Also, the opportunity to do our internship over here is worth it to be continued.

After this decision, the first two weeks were hard, because we are in a foreign country, we are not able to speak the language and, in this way, not able to follow the news about the developments of COVID-19. Next to this, we received a lot of messages from our families. They were stating their concerns about us being so far from home. As a result, we started to hesitate about our decision.

Luckily, a colleague of Denise gave us updates about the developments in Portugal and told us that we could also count on her. Later, she gave us the opportunity to move into a studio that she rents out, above her own house. In this way, we weren’t totally alone during these times. Because of this, we were and are feeling comfortable to stay in Lisbon and to continue our internships. The family really takes care of us and that feels safe and makes us happy being here during these times. We also learned a lot about the Portuguese culture by living with a family, which really creates an added value to this adventure. We are really enjoying our time over here with them and during the weekend they show us this beautiful country. Besides this family, we also have contact with the other colleagues of our internships through online meetings. In conclusion, to make the decision to stay or not was hard – but now we are glad and thankful to be here and be able to continue our internships.

What has your experience at your internships been like so far?

We are happy to be able to continue our internships. This is really a great opportunity. The people are very hospitable and really want to teach us something, but they are also open to learn from us as students. The way of working is different than in the Netherlands. This asks for the ability to adapt to the new situation and makes it therefore even more interesting. When COVID-19 developed, the people at our internships took their time to help us make the right decision. They supported us whatever decision we would make, and told us that we can always count on their help. When we decided to stay here, they tried to continue the internship in the best possible way, such as by having online meetings and less work at the offices.

At this moment, everything is going back to normal again, slowly. We are happy with the decision which we made, because we will soon be able to continue our internship at the offices, and get a real experience of the work field.

What was or is the most positive experience you’ve had because of the pandemic?

The most positive experience is the help of other people. We are really thankful for people we can count on and who have helped us during these times in a foreign country. It is really interesting to see, that even from working at home, you are in very close contact with others to continue working together. Next to this, exploring the country’s culture and the country itself is interesting. Finally, the opportunity to be in contact with the facility manager and get to know more about the difference in Facility Management between the countries.

What would you like to say to other students who are preparing for an international experience?

We want to advise other students, who will go abroad to do an internship or exchange to organize everything very well before the departure. Because, it is already exciting enough and with a good preparation you can enjoy your time more over there. For example, do the hard work of organizing documents and staff but also make an itinerary of activities for your free time. Furthermore, take a look at the culture, because it is really interesting and good to know before you start working in the other country. Next to that, we want to advise you not to be afraid and adapt with the new culture or situation which you will face. Just let it happen and don’t be scared to have contact with local people. It makes your experience even better and the locals can show you more and the best beautiful places. Most importantly, enjoy your time and also the time before the departure. It will be a great experience for life!

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