Transition: Student to Employee

When I first arrived in Switzerland to start my internship at KB Oil Environmental, I had million thoughts going on in my mind. I was really glad to start a new experience in a new country. However, it was very different. I was used to the Bard bubble, where you see students all around you, and where you really do not have to think about your outfit or your daily agenda. In the beginning it was tough. I had to transfer my mind from being a student to being an employee. I was homesick for both New York and Palestine (my home country).

My First month at KBO

My first month was especially hard. I worked from 8 am to 5 pm, 5 days a week. After work, I spent hours reading for my internship–about oil sludge, its problems, scale and scope, and treatment methods. The fact that I was not familiar with the topic made it even harder. My weekends were spent also at home, either working on my thesis or preparing concept notes and presentations for my internship supervisor.  By the time the month was over, I still had not had time to explore Switzerland or try its amazing fondue.

What happened next?

My time in Switzerland and some of the people I met during different networking events in Geneva.

As time went by, my life became much easier and more fun. My supervisor was really surprised how quickly I was able to adapt and become familiar with the work. I started meeting with people from Saudi Aramco to discuss the environmental and health implications of oil sludge (my Arabic was a plus). I was learning new things at work every day. I started going out on weekends and meeting new people working in different sectors in Geneva. I was able to go on trips to the mountains, to explore the city and try their amazing cheese. I will even start taking French lessons soon.

Lessons Learned

I learned so much about myself during the process–let me share some of these lessons with you:

  • It might be harder than you thought, and that’s OK. Joining the workforce after being a student for a while could be very hard at first. But it just takes time, patience and practice. Believe in what you do and you will succeed.
  • Use time wisely. Having a full time internship/work and a thesis can be difficult, but you can make time for both. Make a to-do list and prioritize it. Do not leave your work for the last minute. If you need help, ask Caroline (she is great at time management).
  • Reach out to your professors at Bard. During my internship I came across many things that were discussed during my first year classes at Bard CEP. I did reach out to Professor Victor Tafur, for example, and he was more than happy to help me. My internship supervisor was very glad that I connected with Victor who provided me with lots of useful information.
  • Make time for yourself. Especially if you move to a new place for your internship. Go out and meet new people, go for adventures and enjoy your time as an intern. This may not happen again. I did not know anyone in Switzerland when I first moved there; however I now have a whole network of people in different divisions and sectors.

What is next?

After 4 months of interning at KBO, I was offered a job contract and I am now officially an employee at KB Oil Environmental! This will also be a new adventure but an easier one. I am now more familiar with my work, more confident, and more organized. Switzerland is not a new country for me anymore–it is a third home.

 

About Dalia Najjar

I have a B.A. in Biology from Bard College and I am pursuing a Master's degree in Environmental Policy at Bard CEP. I am currently an intern at KB Oil Environmental in Geneva, Switzerland