The 5th of February of 2017, I embarked in an adventure to develop my leadership. It was all settled. I was going to be an English teacher for 3 months in Poland in a remote town that hosts 7000 people, a 15th century wooden church and a huge coal factory.
But I never felt like such a thing.
I didn’t feel like a leader when I stepped out to the cold and snow wearing 5 kilos of clothes and a new pair of snow shoes that I hadn’t worn before and gave me blisters. Neither did I feel like one when I faced for the first time a group of 10 tiny 3-years-old to whom I could barely communicate and who gave me back confused faces or babbling sounds.
I didn’t feel like a leader when I was asked to speak more slowly because they couldn’t understand me, or to stop that video because the accent of that TED speaker was too weird. I was far from being a leader when I forgot to prepare an activity for a class and I had to come up with something new, funny and challenging in five minutes. Definitely not a leader when I asked questions that made my students uncomfortable and wanting to change the subject. Or when I decided to introduce competition games in a group were two kids ended up crying because they lost.
Neither was I a leader when I saw how one of my students was bullied in a language I could not understand, or when I gave them extra homework with a trembling voice and asked them to apologize, or when the parents wanted to talk about it with the director of the institute and my legs were shaking because I wasn’t even sure what were they bullying her for.
And I was certainly not a leader when another of my students confessed me she wanted to end her life because she felt she was not pretty, smart or good enough.
I started being a leader when It all ended. When I came back to Argentina, walked out of the plane and faced the so out of place humidity and 22 degrees in the middle of Fall. When I saw someone drive through a red light and someone else littering from their car. When I heard the journalists in the TV talk about floods and prosecuted politicians. When I was scrolling down the pictures I took in Poland and I realised how fulfilled I was, how happy that experience made me, how much I’ve changed in 3 months, and how much I was not going to let that be just a memory.
And that’s when It hit me. You don’t need an internship to be a leader, you need and internship to understand that you already are one.