How I’ll Talk about Service-Learning in My Next Job Interview

Daniel Sanders is a student at Northwestern University and is an ISA Featured Blogger. He is studying abroad  with ISA Service-Learning in Valparaiso, Chile

At my introductory meeting at Acción Emprendedora with Paula, my ISA coordinator, and Caleb, my supervisor, where we went over my schedule and responsibilities, Caleb told me that the most important goal he had for me was for me to feel like a part of the team. Just a few weeks later, he was already excitedly telling me “Daniel… I can honestly say that you truly are a part of the team.” On my last day, we discussed what I did well and what I could work on, and he said that his favorite thing about me was effort and process for integrating into the team. He said it was so cool how I always participated in conversations, and when I heard something that I didn’t understand, I wouldn’t just let it go, but rather I would ask about it – what does it mean, where does it come from, how do I use it – and then I would actually practice it. I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, but rather embraced them, learning from them and becoming a better communicator and teammate. The thing is, however, I wasn’t consciously doing any of this, but rather it’s how I am and it’s how I operate.

It wasn’t until Caleb gave me his perspective that I realized just how beneficial my persistent inquisitiveness and desire to learn could be. I did those things that he described because I had a genuine interest and wanted to be better, not because Caleb said “I want you to feel part of the team” or because I was really trying to be part of the team (of course I did want that as well). I knew my time in Chile and was limited and so I wanted to make the most of every opportunity, and I think that’s why Caleb thought it was so cool and why he appreciated it so much – because I was obviously genuine.

It wasn’t just the lunchtime conversations and Uno games, but it was always. After consulting meetings in which I participated and meetings with entrepreneurs and incubees to which I invited myself, I followed up and asked questions to make sure I understood as much as possible. I kept a list of words I learned and made weekly flashcard sets on Quizlet called “Acción Emprendedora Semana #.” I crafted and conducted interviews with coworkers, synthesized what I learned, and presented it to them as a PowerPoint, adding my own insights and criticism. I even wrote a paper in both English and Spanish analyzing the topic of teamwork and work environment based on what I had learned. And when I taught English, we asked each other questions and everybody always learned something.

I went to Chile looking to improve my Spanish, and while I certainly did (a lot), my growth in Spanish was just a byproduct of my own growth. My conversations, introspection, and analytical approach helped me realize and learn things about myself that have and will allow me to help myself and others. They allowed me to, for example, dissect and better understand my process for learning and internalizing new things, which I now realize not only helped me to improve my Spanish, as was my original intent, but also, and to an even greater extent, to integrate into a new culture and a new team, to make friends, contribute value, become more trustworthy and empathetic, and overall, to be a better person and someone who you want to have on your team. I learned what makes a strong team and how to be a good team player, and going into these consulting interviews for post-grad full-time employment, where success at these companies is predicated upon collaboration and teamwork, I will be especially grateful for the professional experience I had as a service-learning participant at Acción Emprendedora.

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