When I was a student it never seemed to be the right time to go on a student exchange. So when RELEX offered me the opportunity to spend three months at our Atlanta office as part of our work exchange program it got a resounding ‘yes’ from me. My summer ended up as an awesome mix of traveling and exploring, working on meaningful tasks and projects, and learning about the US.
Atlanta was never on my list of ‘must-visit’ travel destinations. And that’s precisely why it was the perfect place for me to go. Throughout the summer we explored Atlanta, Savannah and we even made a road trip to New Orleans with our fellow RELEXians. Overall, going with the flow and saying ‘yes’ to whatever my colleagues suggested meant that I experienced a lot of things I would otherwise never have done (including 4th of July at a rooftop pool, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shoot the Hooch and so, so much more!).
Making a difference
The US office is growing super fast, and it was great to get to enjoy the view from the front seat. For me, that growth meant I had lots of opportunities there to challenge myself and do things that had real value above and beyond what I’d done before. Taking the initiative on a customer project led me to accept more responsibility and ultimately I covered for our project’s main business consultant while he was away. That wasn’t all either. Expressing an interest in recruitment led me to get involved in that too! Feeling I was able to make a real contribution, one that was of value and that was valued by my colleagues, was really motivating. It felt meaningful. Although there was not as much free-time as you might typically expect of a student exchange, I didn’t mind. Being at work was an experience in itself with lots of opportunities and shared with colleagues from very diverse backgrounds.
Colleagues are friends
As I was in Atlanta to work, I was a bit worried if I’d be able to make friends with whom I could spend time and explore. I really needn’t have worried. Whether it was going to see a soccer game, grilling by the pool, having Friday after-work beers, brunching on a Saturday or visiting Georgia aquarium, there was always a group of RELEXians up for it.
I’ve often heard it said of student exchanges that it’s easy enough to get to know the other exchange students but harder to connect with the locals. In our case, there was a group of us who were there as visitors, but often enough, we were a happy mix of both visitors and locals!
Looking back on my summer, I couldn’t have hoped for a better way of spending time abroad. Immersing myself in a culture that was still familiarly RELEXian, yet distinctively American, taught me a lot in a short time. Likewise the America I was able to explore while I was there; there was a lot to learn and a lot was learned. I also feel like I had the proper exchange experience I never had the opportunity to enjoy when I was a university student. At least here at RELEX, a work exchange is as fulfilling an experience as I ever hoped a student exchange could be!
Merit Morikawa, Content Designer
Merit started her RELEX journey in January 2018 and has since worked on multiple things, including customer projects, continuous service delivery, software testing, and product training. She is now finishing her Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management while also studying psychology at the Helsinki University. Outside all that, you can find her either at the gym or practicing the intricacies of aquarelle painting.