My student career has followed a bumpy road so far, so when I first applied for an international internship I didn't think I would really get the chance to go. It surely hasn't been easy getting here. But eventually I got "Yes" after "Yes" after "Yes", and my Swedish adventure became more and more real - though I don't think I allowed myself to believe it all until I was actually packing my suitcase.
The best "Yes" came by mail. "Dear Cathy. We are interested in hosting you..." I didn't realise it was a "Yes" at first. But then it started to dawn on me, like when someone slowly realises that the lottery numbers appearing on the television screen are actually the same as the ones on his ticket. And I really felt like I had won the jackpot - idiotically big grin, jumping up and down, uncontrollable laughter, clumsy victory dance: I did them all. Now I'm here, I still feel like I won the big prize (though I try to keep the clumsy victory dancing to an absolute minimum in the office to maintain an at least semi-professional posture).
So where is "here"? Well, if you happen to be in Stockholm, and you happen to take a walk down Torsgatan (Yes, that's right - Thor's street), then you can't miss it. It's the coolest building on the block: Bonniers Konsthall. Bonniers Konsthall exhibits contemporary art and hosts several expositions every year. I spend five days a week here, trying to be a good praktikant (That's Swedish for 'intern') for Katya and Yuvinka, who are responsible for everything that has to do with public and programs.
The biggest difference between my previous internships and this one, apart from the fact that it takes place in Sweden of course, is that I am not only working on my own project now. I don't just prepare things at home to only be on location during the activities. I am part of everyday life at the art institute. I see Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, inventories and archives, meetings and coffee breaks, phone calls and deliveries, newsletters and calendars, publications and merchandise, guided tours and battery changes, brainstorms and decision making... Well, you get the idea. My own tasks are also varied. I have some pedagogical projects to work on and some administrative tasks, and besides that I get a lot of small chores and assignments.
I have my own desk and my own computer (with Google Translate as my number 1 bookmark) and I can take anything I need from the supply room - which is very good because someone keeps stealing my pens. I have the company of a fellow-praktikant, Jåanna. Although she works on different things as I, it is nice to exchange ideas and discuss the highs and lows of life as an intern. A part of the building is under construction right now, so sometimes I need/ get to wear a flashy jacket and hardhat.
Praktikant life. Jåanna likes Belgian chocolate, but she doesn't like to be in pictures.
The work culture here is quite different from what I am used to in Belgium. Things are a lot more relaxed and informal. Everyone is on a first-name basis. Upon arriving in the office, many people kick off their heavy outdoor shoes and slip into comfy shoes, or walk around on their socks. Meetings often get held in couches. The hierarchy is not as strict as in Belgium. Everyone, no matter their function, is very approachable. Office doors are only closed when people really can't be disturbed. Consultation and consensus seem to be very important. Many meetings are held every day. Sometimes I wonder what there can still be left to discuss. However, it gets the job done and it keeps people on the same page, so it definitely works.
I enjoy this way of working and I prefer it over what I have experienced in Belgium. Still, I am struggling to get used to it. It feels really weird to keep work related mails quite informal. Even though the doors are open it still takes me some convincing to go in and just talk to people. I enjoy having a voice, but I still need to persuade myself time and time again that I actually might have something to say... Perhaps in time I will master the art of working like a Swede. For now I'll just make do the best I can, keep working hard and learning loads and enjoying every minute of it.