Melinda Willis

Melinda Willis (TAMPEP, Turin): At the time of her fellowship, Melinda was studying for a Master’s degree at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. She was the 2004-2005 co-editor of Praxis, the Fletcher Journal of International Development.

The Learning Curve

02 Aug

Turin: On my first day of my internship, I needed to figure out how to get here. I was told to take tram #18 to Corso Brescia and that it would cost 0,90. So I got on tram #18 holding my one euro coin looking around for either a box to drop it in, or a person to take it. Seeing neither, I just sat there holding it, figuring that the ride in this direction must be free in the morning (yes, really).

When I told people at work that I didn’t have to pay, they told me I was very lucky not to get caught because I was supposed to pre-purchase a ticket. I laughed to myself, thinking that if a conductor did approach me and I handed them a coin instead of a ticket, my clueless _expression and American accent might not help me avoid the fine.

TAMPEP had a book of tickets that they gave me as a start to use on the ride home. So I got on the tram, holding my ticket and looking for someone to take it. No one did. It turns out you are supposed to find a machine on the tram to punch the ticket with a date and time stamp. This was explained to me after about a week of confused rides with me happily, albeit ignorantly, clutching my ticket and thinking that public transport ticket enforcement is pretty lax. I might have figured this out for myself if I had ever seen any Italians punch their tickets, but most people either have monthly passes or just risk getting caught empty-handed, because well, public transport ticket enforcement is pretty lax.

The thought of that first week makes me laugh, because it just seems silly that I didn’t see those bright orange boxes in the back of the tram that so obviously call out to punch your ticket, not to mention the translated instructions above the doors. All I can say for myself is that I was new. For me, the feeling of being new to a place – especially a job – is something I always try to get past as quickly as humanly possible. After all, who wants to feel like they only understand 50% of what is going on around them?

I felt that way pretty often at TAMPEP as I tried to figure out how to accomplish what I was brought here to do. Nine weeks into this internship, I am still having those “oh, now I get it” moments. Thankfully, they are much less frequent than they were in the first few weeks and don’t come with the possibility of a fine.

Posted By Melinda Willis

Posted Aug 2nd, 2004

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