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Surprising Lessons from Chinese Trade Policy

July 10, 2014

At some point in my day, I had this brilliant idea for a blog post… but it has disappeared into the abyss of lost thoughts, forgotten vocabulary words and disconnected streets that takes up most of my brain come evening. So, given that, you’re stuck with reading about work. I’ll try to make it worth your time though.

Here is a “selfie” of me at work… and for fun, I’ll share the story that goes with it. The other day I had two awkward moments. The first was on the way to work when I tried to pay the share car driver with a quarter instead of 25 pesos! The second was shortly after I arrived at work – and I was caught taking this selfie. Gringo (gringa) level: fannypack.

Anyway, on the computer screen behind me in this picture is a 200+ page document on Chinese trade and investment policy… in Spanish. So if anyone is looking to practice having a Spanish conversation about capital account outflows to Hong Kong, I’m your girl. I tried discussing it with my taxi driver on the way back for practice, but I don’t think he was too interested. Just kidding, we actually talked about the World Cup.

To state the obvious, I’ll share why I’m reading Chinese trade policy in the Dominican Republic ;). I’m working at the Ministry of External Relations (MIREX) in the trade negotiations unit here. I’m working on projects with the World Trade Organization’s trade policy reviews now. The second aspect of my internship is to work on a research project on CAFTA-DR, the Central American, US, Dominican Republic free trade agreement.

MIREX – Photo credit: Diario Libre

So that is work in a nutshell; I’ll spare you the nitty gritty, but instead share something important I learned at work that I think is relevant to anyone reading this. This is something I learned about myself, and I think it is something that at some point every one of us comes face to face with.

I am a very verbal person. I’m good at speaking and have always had a good vocabulary and been able to articulate my thoughts and points well for people. I consider interviewing to be one of my greatest skills because of this. I’ve always known I had this strength, but what I didn’t realize was how tied in with it my confidence is. At work I have my verbal skills taken away from me. I have to communicate things in a language where I lack the power and precision of words in my native language. I lack the vocabulary to choose carefully what I say; I lack the grammar structure to ensure the subtleties of my speech are there. My handle on the language goes from being as smooth as Messi’s ball handling skills (okay, that is exaggeration, but you get the picture) in English, to that of a small child trying to kick a big ball. I trip, fall, kick in the wrong direction or score in the wrong goal. And with my language handling skills I felt my confidence evaporate.

Often we think of confidence and pride as going hand in hand, but I learned in this case how incredibly important it is to extricate them. My confidence was an important tool that I needed to get through each day in the workplace, but my pride was getting in the way. My pride made me sit quietly at my desk hesitant to ask questions or make friends. Only when I humbled myself could I enjoy confidence and a lack of fear making my work day so much better. At its root, confidence comes from my identity, not from my achievements. It took humility, my setting aside my fear of failure and my desire to look good, in order to act in true confidence.

Thanks for reading this blog. Feel free to comment, question or suggest a topic you’d like to know about.

Later, gators.

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