Student Blog: Notes from Brussels (Internship)
On the Job in Brussels, Belgium and Planning a Trip to Paris
by Shahin Soltan '09
This week was the most challenging week for me at work. The person I was working for, Michel, had left the company and I was basically given all of his responsibilities. I had to rely on the weeks of training that he had given me and see how much I had really learned. Although there were lots of things to do, I enjoyed it because as my responsibilities grew, so did my performance level. I was surprised to see how many things I could do on my own without asking anybody for help.
Then on Tuesday something new came up at work. The other intern from Food Lion and I were asked to join Delhaize for a two-day cultural learning session. Two people, one from Belgium and one from the U.S. had come to the offices to teach us more about the Belgian, American and Greek cultures. The reason we focused on these three cultures were because Delhaize mainly has stores in those three locations, although there are a few stores in places like Romania and Indonesia as well.
We were taught what the differences in culture are among Belgians, Americans, and Greeks, how to do business with them, and what to say and not to say. It was very interesting listening and learning about differences in culture. One negative aspect of having these cultural learning sessions however is that we could tend to generalize and think that all people from a certain culture are the same and forget to think that we are dealing with individuals as well, and not only their culture. However, the best way that I know to prepare yourself before doing business with another country is to generalize because it would take too much time to learn all the information you need about every single person that you will be dealing with.
Thursday and Friday, it was back to the routines at the office. I had more bank statements to work on and I also prepared a financial budget forecast for the different entities of the company. Then, I was asked to go over invoices from a consultant because one of the directors had become suspicious since they had received a lot more invoices from that particular company than usual. So I went over all the invoices and I checked to make sure we hadn't been charged for work performed on the same date twice. I sent the report to my director in the U.S. and I told her that I have gone through everything and there seems to be "no irregularities." Two people had done work for us and I knew one of the guys, but the other one I didn't know. I got an e-mail back from Stephanie, my director, thanking me for the job I did and telling me that the other person who we have paid over a six-month period isn't even working for us. I had no idea that was the case but it caught my attention to always be careful and look over your expenses to make sure that you are not paying for something that you really shouldn't pay for.
Then it was the weekend. Chad (the other intern from Salisbury) and I had planned to go to Paris, however, it didn't quite turn out that way. A number of unexpected problems occurred. We had planned to take the bus Saturday morning at 6 am, however, there was a small problem: there is no public transportation that early in the morning on the weekends. So then we decided to take the train instead, which leaves later. Another problem: we didn't know where we could pick up our train tickets and where the train actually left from, considering there are at least three or four different stations in Brussels. So we took this weekend to figure everything out and now we have it all planned out for next week Sunday. I have booked the train tickets, I know where to pick them up, and I know where the train is leaving from. So now we should be in good shape.
Instead, this weekend I just relaxed and did something that I always enjoy doing; talking over the Internet to my wonderful and beautiful girlfriend. Her name is Skye and she graduated from Queens University of Charlotte this year, and now she is back at home in the Bahamas, where she is originally from and waiting to get into medical school. She is incredibly smart. She started college when she was 16 and graduated at 20 and plans to become a doctor. While Skye and I were talking, she checked online for me to see what type of events that are going on in Brussels over the weekend; one of the things she said was that there will be a music festival on Sunday in the Royal Park where I usually go jogging. I walked down there and jogged a few laps around the park and I heard music, so I went to check it out and sure enough, there was a band playing with a small crowd listening. The type of music they played was Jazz music, which wasn't bad at all, and the festival appears to be going on every Sunday until the end of the month.
Now I only have two and a half weeks left in Belgium. Time has gone by quickly and I am sure the last weeks will go by quickly as well. I am really excited about going to Paris next Sunday; that is something that I have always wanted to do. I have no doubt that the city will meet my expectations and I am sure that I have some great stories to talk about after I come back.
PHOTOS: Business Internship in Brussels, Belgium