I've spent the past month in Houston interning with Teach for America. It has been an experience I have learned and grown so much from. With two weeks to go, I wanted to take time to reflect on how it has been and pinpoint specific learning moments.
To start off, living in Houston has taught me how to, well, live in Houston.
As simplified as it sounds, being in a completely new city and environment has shown me how to adapt and become part of the culture of a different city.
It's the little things, like carrying around a sweater because although it might be 90 degrees out, inside the AC is blasting 60, or trying out Tex Mex one, two, okay, maybe five times, within the first two weeks because this is something Texans are so proud of.
I've learned that living in a different city and embracing this city are two different things.
I have made the conscious effort to go out and explore, visiting places such as Discovery Green, Rice Village, and museums, because I want to make the most of my time here. Six weeks may seem short, but it is more than enough time to discover what a city has to offer. When I come home, yes I want to remember the memories I have from my job because it has been fulfilling, but I also want to come home with memories of Houston as a city.
Living in Houston means being over 1500 miles from home. While I also am away from home during college and live an independent life there too, here, all I am responsible for is work. At school, after my classes I have constant assignments or papers to complete or have rehearsals, club meetings, etc. to attend. Here, I work and then the rest of my time is up to me. I've been able to simply take care of myself, i.e. go to the gym, or just relax and watch movies or read.
Having so much freedom with my time has helped me figure out what my priorities are.
I am able to choose how to spend my time and choose who I want to spend it with.
Related to priorities comes prioritizing relationships at home. I've found myself in better contact with my friends and family in New York and feel even more connected with them despite the miles between us. Whether this means weekly FaceTimes or phone calls or just random texts to friends when I see something or am thinking about them, I've been able to stay in contact with my loved ones regularly. As someone who is going abroad in the fall, this has been reassuring that I will be able to do the same in the near future.
In terms of connecting this experience to the one I will have abroad, just as I knew no one going into this internship, I know no one in my abroad program. Yet I have been able to fully adapt and become a part of the community here in such a short period of time.
Jumping right into my internship and becoming friends with my coworkers has shown me that it's the quality of our interactions that matter.
The work itself has been a lot. I worked 14 days straight the first two weeks. A "light" workday for me here is 8 hours, which is a standard one for most of my friends at home. Yet I've enjoyed the business and crazyness, to some degree. I've hustled like I never have before and I'd like to think I'm coming out of this internship with a greater sense of what it means to handle logistical operations of an organization and also interact with higher ups professionally.
Still, though, living in the same place as I'm working has taught me the importance of setting boundaries.
It is so easy to take a call after hours or run into someone when you are off the clock who has a question. Yet it is even more important to be clear about when you are on a break or not working so that your time is being honored.
It's been a whirlwind summer of learning and I honestly cannot believe I will be leaving in two weeks. I am sad to go, but of course happy to be home before I set off on my next adventure.
Houston, while I may not be able to sleep past 9 anymore because of my 5 am wake up calls, you have been good to me and I am so grateful for all I've experienced here. Here's to making the most of my last two weeks!