Lessons from my Internship

July 14, 2012

Until recently, I’ve always had a certain image of how things in a workplace in Oman would look like – bored employees, solitaire on computer screens, newspapers and coffee. 

My internship at one of the oil and gas companies in Oman has put me in a state similar to that of a cultural shock. Everything I had in mind, starting with the behaviour of the employees and ending with the look of the building, was wrong, and I almost feel guilty for that.

One thing that never ceases to impress me is the employees’ dedication that is ever so obvious in everything they do. Although the official working hours start at 8am, when I arrive at 7.59am, the sight of almost everyone in my department and other departments already at their desks and perhaps already scratching off a task or two off of their to-do lists makes me feel like I’m an hour late.

One day, I looked across the glass that separates my department from another department and I notice a suitcase lying on the ground. Out of curiosity, I ask my friend, who is an intern in that department about the suitcase. She tells me that it belongs to her colleague who is going on holiday and has to catch a flight in a few hours. In disbelief, and perhaps out of self-pity, I laugh. I laughed because I knew that, had it been me, I would’ve, sadly, taken the entire day off and wouldn’t bother showing up to work that day.

I think the sight of the suitcase has opened my eyes. I now finally know what to ask myself when making a decision about a job offer in the future – if I had flight to catch in the afternoon, would I take my suitcase to my workplace and do my job as usual until an hour or two before the flight?

Another lesson I’ve learned is how important socialising in the workplace is. Although the people in the company are incredibly busy, they still make time for socialising and catching up with their colleagues. Before starting my internship, so many people reminded me about the importance of getting to know the people around me.

I wasn’t worried about that, because until recently, I’ve always thought that I was a very outgoing and confident person. Turns out I’m not, especially not around new people. This has made the experience harder than expected.  I knew that this was the reason for my discomfort when I saw an intern from another department come into my department and so charismatically introduced herself and got to know most of my colleagues – something I’ve had a very difficult time with because of my newly discovered shyness.

My faith in Omani youth has revived every time I see how hard my young Omani colleagues work. I think a lot of people underestimate Omanis and their competencies and always automatically assume that an expat is more hard working and experienced than an Omani employee. All the extra hours and effort that they put into their work pokes holes in the long lasting misconception that we have.

If you’re one of those people who come to work before the official working hours begin, or you’re someone who comes into work with your suitcase, or a young fresh graduate who’s first in and last out of your workplace, kudos to you.

Buthaina al Hinai, an undergraduate at the College of Commerce and Economics, Sultan Qaboos University, is passionate about human and social behaviour. Her interests revolve around photography, graphic design, sociology and psychology.