Eats, Beats, and Team Retreats

The midpoint of an internship — in this case, week five of eight — is probably the best time to unwind and get to know your co-workers in a non-work setting. By then, you’ve had a few weeks to settle into your new role, and the first day jitters — that tend to last a week for me — are likely gone. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a great group of people during my internship with the Iowa City Area Development (ICAD) group, and got to experience my very first team retreat on July 1st.

I’ll begin by stating how excited, but also nervous, I was for this retreat; not knowing what to expect will do that to you. But after three hours of cellphone-free activities, I’m happy with the deeper connections I was able to make. I’ve had at least a dozen jobs since I was 16, but this was the first where team bonding outside of work was made a priority. I think it’s good to foster team relationships in a non-work setting where our guards are a little more down, and we can gab without restraint. Let the team building begin!

The retreat kicked off with a 10-minute guided meditation full of deep breathing exercises, the relaxing hum of wind chimes, and the piercing chirp of a bird or twenty. But honestly, I sighed with relief at our first activity, knowing that my co-workers took seriously something I’ve gotten very involved in over the past year (Thich Nhat Hanh has been amazing for me!). I cleared my mind and was able to get into a daydreaming, relaxation sort of state.

Next, we shifted gears to learn more about each other by providing our personal history. Believe it or not, I’m someone who enjoys talking about myself (I’m a Leo, okay) even if I don’t enjoy casual conversations all that much, so this was fun for me.

  • Hometown: Waterloo, Iowa
  • 1st/favorite job: Toys R Us/Teaching at UIOWA
  • Worst job: Toys R Us… surprisingly, we weren’t allowed to play with the toys
  • Number of siblings: 4 + 2 brothers by marriage
  • Something no one knows: Few people know that my favorite television genre is post-apocalyptic science-fiction (I will defend Jericho and The 100 until the bitter end!)
  • 2 Truths + 1 lie: I self-produced a rap album entitled 3AM (shameless plug) under the pseudonym Rockstar Sunny Nese in 2019 — this no doubt helped with my depression, so I saved it for posterity 😊 (you’re welcome). I’m actually going to change my second truth from teenage politics to the #MeToo Movement because getting to chat with Tarana Burke in 2018 was way cooler than any student election. Finally, I lied about having been married when I was 21… if you know me, you know that I didn’t get my first “boyfriend” until I was 24, and even then, that only lasted a day (I can thank my commitment issues for that. TMI?)
  • Magic moment in professional life: I didn’t get around to answering this question at the retreat, but I’d say finishing my Masters this summer was a magical moment for me. After experiencing what I hope was the worst two years of my life (for non-school related reasons), I can still say that I pushed through; I know my parents would be proud 🥲.

After sharing our personal histories, we listened to a playlist of songs that collectively represented the soundtrack of our lives. I chose “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” by Good Charlotte because I believe in wealth redistribution — this wacky idea that our world shouldn’t have billionaires and homeless people.

Our last activity involved shimmery gold paint, sponges, and a blank canvas. As a team, we constructed a work of abstract art that would make Sam Gilliam crack a smile.

Overall, I believe the retreat was a big success, and I’m glad I was able to attend. Without being too hyperbolic, this was absolutely the most fun I’ve had in a long time!

End of retreat team painting.
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