Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Belgium Week: The Co-op Report

"Seán, please kill me"

Part of the co-op experience is writing a report where you describe the organisation, and what you learned from your time spent there. This presented me with a challenge, as I learned pretty much nothing over those five months or so, yet I was required to meet my word quota. Of course, I decided my report would serve to entertain myself while highlighting the atrocity that was the University of Limerick being willing to send a New Media and English student to stoop over toilets for half a year (although that’s not quite how they pitched it to me before I left).

For your reading pleasure, I will now copy and paste in excerpts from my actual co-op report, which has not yet been submitted to UL, but will be once it’s finished. I am 100% behind what I am saying here, and they have been in no way altered for this blog entry.

Work Skills Page
UL’s co-op site asks that students discuss skills they have improved or gained under a number of suggested categories, of which many were incompatible with my experiences (does using a mop count as ‘ICT Skills’?). Don’t worry, dear reader, for I made do with what I could!

They asked for evidence of ‘Basic Work Skills';
●Reporting to work as scheduled and on time.
●Dressing appropriately for work.
●Having an awareness of how formal personal interactions in the employing organisation are.

So here is how I fulfilled these requirements:

Basic Work Skill
Working at the Institute, the only 'skill' that could be learned is that of basic work. The work is uninteresting, difficult, unrewarding, excessive, demeaning, and entirely unsuited to an English student. What follows is the obligatory spiel about how I learned to conduct myself at work;
● I showed up on time for work. This task is achieved by setting an alarm clock to wake up oneself at a time that will allow them to report to work before they are scheduled to begin. It is important to show up for work on time, as otherwise fellow workers and managers will get upset, and that would be bad.
● I dressed appropriately for work. This involved putting on a pair of black pants – operated by putting the left and right legs into their respective areas of the garment, pulling up the zipper, and fastening the button. I wore a belt with these pants – it wraps around the pants through the designated hoops, and stays together by means of passing a bar through the appropriate notch. Belts are important because they prevent gravity from removing one's pants – which could lead to the exposure of one's underpants or even genitals during work. I wore a white shirt to cover my arms and torso. The shirt works in a very similar manner to the pants, only instead of surrounding your legs, arms are what holds the garment in place. The buttons are then fastened, and the shirt is tucked into the aforementioned pants. This tucking is the hardest part of the job, as one must uniformly have the same amount of shirt hanging over the brim of the pants.
● Formal personal interactions were never explicitly outlined to me, but being an intelligent type, I assumed that swearing, sexual advancements and screaming were all examples of inappropriate behaviour in front of guests.

Cultural/International Awareness
● I learned the basic pleasantries in Flemish – I would've liked to learn more, but the free lessons that we had been promised by the Institute turned out to be hot air, and attending lessons at the University in town would cost me more money than I was willing to pay.
● I learned a lot about the Belgian culture while not at work, such as their bars are only legally required to close for one hour a day to clean, and certain denizens seem to have an affinity for headbutting strangers in nightclubs

UL Sez Communication Skills involve;
●Listening to others in an effective and attentive manner.
●Participating effectively in meetings and/or group settings.
●Developing the ability to read and understand written materials.
●Communicating ideas and concepts clearly both verbally and in writing.
●Recognising the importance of non-verbal communication.

I think I illustrate my proficiency in communication with these easily digested, bulleted points;

Communication Skills
● I learned that when the boss says she doesn't “give a shit” - it means that you've lost your argument and it's time to give in.
● Non-verbal communication is used in many interactions. When you can feel your boss's evil glare burning a hole in your forehead, you know that she doesn't care about what it is you're saying.
● I learned that unless you get something written down and signed, it means nothing. Furthermore, the early warning system of that person who promised you something avoiding eye contact / any contact with you lets you know when you are about to get screwed over for the umpteenth time.
● The most motivational weapon in a trainee-manager's arsenal is the word 'fuck'. Examples of this include “If you don't get this done by two o'clock – you're fucked”, and “I don't care if your shift was supposed to end four hours ago – just fucking do it”.

This report has not yet been submitted to the UL co-op office, and it seems I must also get someone from the institute to sign it, which should lead to some interesting correspondence. Tomorrow, I will be posting a few more bits and pieces from my report that continue this diatribe.

But what do you think? Does come across as a tad bitter? Do you think it's funny? Will UL appreciate my unflinching honesty in my attempts to stretch what little educational merits were to be found in the Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe?

You guys know where the comments section is by now, yes?


Sully said...

Haha - 54 minutes after posting this I got a message from Maureen (who I used to go out with in Belgium), telling me that I was late for work on a few occasions, apparently stating "I don't feel like I owe the institute anymore hours"... Which is very true - I was not punctual 100% of the time , and I hope that I have not mislead anybody with the above blog post!

Anyone got anymore accusations of 'falsity' for me to address? :D

Anonymous said...

"I learned pretty much nothing over those five months"
We learned how to fold hundreds of napkins in one sitting, both the breakfast and lunch variety, to parry complaints from co-workers about their roster ("I'm so close to going home it's not even funny") all the while turning a blind eye as the trainee manager stole alcohol from our bar, did we not? That's multi-tasking of the highest order.

Dermot said...

Great entry though.

Diarm said...

Ha ha, i actually laughed out loud reading that!

Dont know if UL prof's will agree with me. But if its the truth, it must be told...

Mega said...

I've learned a lot today, seriously.