Category Archives: Undergrad
The Challenges of Interning and Working Abroad
By: Abigail Howard
Living in Spain for three years as a kid, truly broadened the way I view the world. Since then, one of my main goals has been to travel, live, and study abroad as much as possible. However, until I actually went abroad to work, I never realized the unique challenges I would encounter in the workplace.
After my sophomore year at GW, I decided to search for internships in Istanbul. I had already spent a gap year intensively studying Turkish in Samsun, Turkey on a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. I already knew the language and was able to find an internship through a personal contact. So in the summer of 2013 I sent out to work as a Corporate Communications Intern for Dogan Burda Dergi, a large magazine publishing company that is part of Dogan Holding, in the heart of Istanbul.
Interning abroad was unlike any other work experience I have had. Before securing my internship, I had to discuss basic topics such as compensation, start and end dates, and visas, which proved to be very complicate as we were in different time zones and I was speaking in a language that was not my native tongue. On my first day, the Human Resources manager, who I had been in contact with, took me to the Corporate Communications department and my manager was surprised by my arrival. She was not expecting me, so there was no work for me to do for most of the summer. Despite this, my summer was extremely educational. I focused on improving my Turkish and took advantage of every opportunity to talk with other employees. Most of my coworkers had never met an American who spoke Turkish and knew so much about their culture. We would spend our lunch break discussing differences and similarities between our backgrounds and cultures. I also read articles and every magazine the company published in order to keep up with what was going, as well as to advance my language skills. After noticing that the social media was lacking at the company, I researched what similar companies were doing and created a plan that I presented to my boss at the end of the summer. Every once in a while I would be tasked with translating newsletters from Turkish to English to increase the company’s global presence, which I enjoyed.
During that summer, I also faced challenges with the political situation in Turkey. While I was there, there were constant protests in large Turkish cities due to disagreements between citizen groups and the political power. These protests started two weeks after I arrived, and continued every weekend throughout my stay. As a result, many businesses and travel shut down on the weekends so that people could demonstrate their disapproval with the current government. A main part of my planned job was to help plan and execute events, and unfortunately the majority of the events got cancelled right after I started my internship.
My internship experience is probably not typical for Turkey, or abroad in general, but the political situation could not have been predicted and definitely required some adjustment. Still, I haven’t lost my interest in living and working abroad. Currently, I am searching for a job in Santiago, Chile and am planning to move there in July after I graduate. While I know firsthand that living and working abroad presents a whole new set of obstacles, I know it will be another incredible and rewarding experience.
You’ve Got Nothing to Lose!
By Brian McGann
Networking. For some, it is no sweat. Yet for others, it is an ever-looming event, a dreaded nightmare filled with a sequence of phone calls and cocktail hours that ultimately lead to a dead end. And I am here to tell you, that it is okay. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Those five words are the ones I wish I heard early on in my college career, right when I began cold calling strangers, sending email after email, and going to different networking events with the hope of making a connection with an employer. However, now I see it as a great lesson and am glad I learned it on my own. Networking can be unsettling, and it is very normal to be nervous. One thing that helps is to realize that you have little to lose in these situations, especially as an undergraduate student. Only good can come from networking, and even if you have a less than ideal experience or encounter, you just need to brush it off and move on. Go forward with that in mind, and it relieves some of the tension that accompanies networking.
Networking is not easy. It takes patience, determination, and certain strength of character to move on after continued failure. It is important to first understand what one is getting into when beginning their networking endeavor. You will make phone calls and send emails, the majority of which are going to go unanswered. You will finally get that referral you’ve been putting in all this work for, and it will still lead nowhere. The biggest realization a college student needs to make is that you are going to hit plenty of dead ends while networking. And the biggest challenge is having the courage to continue on and overcome them.
My best advice is to start early.
My best advice is to start early. I started networking for my summer internship in August 2013, and did not accept my offer until February 2014. Think of anyone who you could learn from, and then see if they know anyone you could learn from. Create an Excel document to track your network, and update it so you can follow up accordingly. Start with friends, family, and move onto alumni from high school and college.
I cold called over 15 GW and high school alumni, sent hundreds of emails, and had multiple informational interviews with over 10 contacts. I wrote 27 cover letters, applied to over 20 firms, and I only interviewed at 5 of them. Yet it only took one great connection to help me land my summer internship. It is going to be hard, it is going to be frustrating, but, after all, you have everything to gain.
How Studying Abroad Can Change You For the Better
By Lauran Steagal
I grew up in a relatively small town in North Carolina, and because of this I wasn’t exposed to many different types of people. Almost everyone I came in contact with was just like me, and it was rare for someone to vary from the norm. Because of this, I wasn’t aware of the incredible variety of cultures, people, and lifestyles that exist in the world. When I came to school in D.C., I realized exactly what I was missing out on. And I soon came to the realization that if I wanted to fully understand other cultures, I would have to get out there and experience as much as I could. Because of this, I made it a priority to spend some time outside of mycomfort zone.
Last summer, I had one of the best experiences of my life living and studying in Madrid, Spain. I was exposed to things I had never seen before, and got to interact with people who were raised to think differently than me. Overall, this experience broadened my horizons in a way that was originally unimaginable to me, and allowed me to truly discover myself. Because I studied abroad, I changed for the better and now I feel more comfortable with my decisions regarding my future career.
When you study abroad, you learn to step out of your comfort zone. You are surrounded by new people and new places, and because of this you learn to be independent and comfortable in your own skin. Once you learn to trust yourself, you will never again question your ability to survive in unfamiliar situations, such as moving to a new city for a job. Additionally, when you study abroad you learn to think in a new and exciting way. Each country has a distinct national identity, and these identities can vary widely across countries. Wherever you end up working, it is likely that you will be exposed to people who were raised differently than you. If you have previously been exposed to people from different backgrounds, you will be better equipped to work with your new colleagues.
Lastly, studying abroad teaches you to live each day to the fullest. Every day is a new experience that teaches you something unique. When studying abroad, you learn to expect the unexpected and things that once seemed life-ending no longer seem to matter as much. This newfound ability to take experiences that used to scare you and use them to learn something about yourself instead allows you to grow as a person. You will be more mature, and better able to take on any challenge your career can throw at you.
Overall, while studying abroad you not only learn more about yourself and your job preferences, but also learn a couple things that will serve you tirelessly throughout your entire career. You know that whatever life may throw at you in terms of your career, you will be able to step up and you will be ready for it.
More than my BBA
By: Michelle Furnari
As a passionate and driven student, I often feel that this is my only identity. When someone asks me to tell them about myself, my immediate thought is to reply with my degree, career plans and aspirations for my next potential internship or job. Although this is an incredibly large part of who I am, it is not all that I am. I believe that as business students we tend to capitalize on our major and believe that it is who we are and who we will be for the rest of our lives. I encourage you to stray away from this immediate and impulsive connection to your college degree.
This is not to discourage you from pursuing your field of study, but rather to encourage you to keep an open mind when considering your future. Many professionals will tell you they did not expect to be working in the industry or position that they currently hold. It is important to keep this in mind while searching for jobs and internships. Do not restrict yourself to your concentration if you have other interests that you would like to pursue. For example, as an Event Management concentration, I am considering jobs in marketing, operations and human resources.
The next time you are asked about yourself, consider including more than your degree in your response. You are more than your BBA, and I encourage you to keep an open mind in your job and internship search. I have encountered many students who believe they know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I believe that although some students may feel this way, the majority of students are less sure of their career path and may not know what they want to do for an internship or job after graduation. I am among the group of students that is unsure of what my career path has in store for me. I do not know what I want to do but I do believe I am never going to know exactly what will be the next step in my career path.
By: Rich Sneider
“It was a great résumé builder.” Too often I hear this phrase when I walk around Duques. I get it. Everyone is preparing for a job after graduation, and I appreciate that so many students are willing to spend their last free summers working hard. That ethic is a cornerstone of the success that we as a Business School have achieved over the years.
What worries me is that it seems that some students believe that enjoying your work and building your résumé are two mutually exclusive ideas. The old adage of “do what makes you happy and you will never work a day in your life” should be your driving force in every stage of your career search, even the internships. Internships should be samplers of different jobs that you are considering for after graduation. So if you are not enjoying it now, why would you consider doing it as a career?
Beyond that, if you are not enjoying what you are doing ,then you are probably not working to your full potential on the job. Studies done by the New York Times, Forbes, and countless HR and psychology authors have shown that employees who like their jobs work harder. If the purpose of taking a position is to look good on a résumé, you are better off finding something you love to do and excelling at it. Additionally, the more excited you are when describing a previous work experience in an interview the better off you are going to be. Employers do not want to hear that you only took a job to work your way into their HR office. They want to know that you are the type of person who can come into work smiling, eager and committed to your work.
You should look back at your time at GW with fondness, and having an enjoyable internship that helped you get a great job is a key component of those memories.
Two weeks deep in French culture and cuisine is bound to make any girl dizzy in love (or at least just nauseated from a café and croissant overload). As a business student who usually finds herself locked in the Capital Markets room or settled in at her daily post as an intern, a semester in Paris is nearly the opposite of what I am accustomed to in Foggy Bottom. Instead of frequenting Whole Foods or the Deli in between classes for a quick recharge, I find myself actually sitting down to enjoy a (much smaller) cup of coffee that comes without a lid. This change of pace (and portion) has definitely taken a bit to get used to but I find that it forces me to be confronted with the task at hand rather than rushing towards the next “to do” on my list.
Because I am pursuing a BS in Finance, with a double major in Economics, I was not completely sure I would be able to fit this amazing opportunity into my already jam packed schedule. With quite a bit of research and planning ahead, however, it was more than manageable to coordinate the classes I needed to count for credit at home. The American University of Paris offers a multitude of Economics and Business courses that cross over nicely into the GW curriculum, making my decision to jump across the pond even easier.
The orientation program at the school lasts for a full week and has been a great asset to my new life in Paris. Topics covered in the programming included where to find the best grocery stores and pharmacies, which neighborhoods to frequent at night, how to stay safe in the city, and how to adapt overall to French culture. At AUP there are bunches of visiting students, many of which are from the states! Although I expected to meet quite a few more French locals, it has been just as enriching to meet students from other campuses across the U.S. and even students from GW whose social circles hadn’t necessarily crossed with mine in D.C. in the past. Connecting with these students has allowed me to solidify my goals for my semester abroad through hearing their personal passions and perspectives. Getting to know so many new people at once has brought me back to memories of my first days on GW’s campus and I feel as if I am a freshman again learning even more about myself.
One of my favorite things in Paris so far has been my close proximity to countless incredible museums and monuments. At a decent price with my student status, I have been lucky enough to attend quite a few classic sights that Paris claims as its own. Some highlights have been visits to Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Cathédrale Notre Dame, Les Invalides, and l’Arc de Triomphe as well as a night cruise on the Seine, a stroll along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and a walk around Montmartre, just to name a few.
As I begin to get deeper invested in my courses, I am making it a goal to become closely involved with University life as well. I am currently a proud member of the Green Initiative on campus, the Yoga Club, the Wine Society and a Volunteer Tutoring group, which assists Parisian Kindergarteners with their English skills.
Although Paris is a much different city than Washington D.C. there are still numerous ways to make this foreign place feel like home and I plan to do my best to assimilate and find enrichment in as many outlets as possible during the next 4 months here. By the end of the semester I hope to feel a bit less of a tourist than I do now with many more memories and friendships than I came with.
Hayley Purcell is a Junior in GWSB pursuing a BS in Finance degree with double majors in Finance & Economics. She is currently abroad through GW’s exchange program with American University of Paris in Paris, France.
Going the Extra Mile
By: Amanda Harlor
I’ve found that there is a lot of emphasis on how to land a great internship. We learn about it in class, we get advice on how to get an internship from our older peers, and we attend panels on the subject. All of this information is extremely important, and hopefully you will be able to successfully leverage what you’ve learned and accept an internship offer at your dream company.
But now what? There is a lot less information and education on what to do to make the most out of your summer internship. How do I ensure that I am maximizing my professional development over the summer? How do I learn more about other positions in the industry and/or at the firm? How do I build and manage a network? And, highest on most students’ lists, how do I turn this internship into a full-time job offer?
I’ve been really fortunate to have had the opportunity to be an intern several different times, and I have friends that have had even cooler experiences. I’ve compiled a list, based on my own experiences and the experiences of fellow students, of best practices for how to get the most out of your summer internship.
- Network: It is so important to go beyond your desk and really get to know the people you are working with. Not only is this the best way to find out more about the company you are at, but it is essential for your professional development. I’d suggest using an Excel spreadsheet as a tracker; after you meet with someone, immediately record who they are, what they do, and what you talked about. This will help you stay organized and make it much easier to manage the connections you make, especially if you are meeting with a lot of people.
- Go above and beyond your manager’s expectations: It is not enough to show up to work, do your assigned tasks, and leave. This robs you of the chance to really show your team members what you are capable of. So show some intellectual curiosity and make sure you understand why you are doing the projects you’re doing. Ask what is the relevance of the project? Why do we do this a certain way? Is there a better way to do this? How does my project benefit my team and the company as a whole? I’ve found that managers are usually really impressed by interns that show real interest in their projects, and if you can find a way to improve the process, that is even better.
- Get to know the other interns: If you are in a program with other interns, take the time to get to know them. They are a great resource to ask your “stupid” questions to, and potentially could be your future co-workers.
- Ask a ton of questions: As I mentioned before, intellectual curiosity is a great trait to have, and it will really help you stand out. Be as inquisitive as possible (but not so much so that you become a nuisance), and make it known that you have a genuine interest in the industry.
- Stay connected: After you’ve finished your summer, be sure to give your personal email to any key contacts that you’d like to stay in touch with. Re- connect periodically with people you met over the summer; update them on what you are up to, and show an interest in what they’ve been doing since you left. This is especially important if you want to return to the firm for another internship or a full-time position. More than likely these will be the people that will help you secure that next job, so be sure to stay in touch!
These tips are not hard and fast; different firms are going to have different cultures and protocols. But all of these guidelines boil down to one idea: Go the extra mile. Go above and beyond whenever possible in every aspect of your internship, and you will be setting yourself up for success beyond the summer.
Well, this is the last time I will be writing from the Eastern Hemisphere: my three month immersion in the culture of London and Queen Mary University has come to an end.
It is honestly the saddest feeling in the entire world. When finals were picking up, I did have moments of homesickness; I wanted to be home for Christmas, with everything so decorated and pretty, spending quality time with family away from all the papers and obligations I had during the final week of the semester. Yet, now my papers are finished, the feelings have reversed back; I do not want to go home at all.
Now I bet you saw the word immersion and thought “oh well it’s not like he’s really British.” No, but some things do become ingrained in you. Like what you may ask? It can be anything as simple as the “proper” way of making tea (trust me, there is one, and we Americans always do it wrong) or listening to Radio One with lunch, or saying “lift” in place of “elevator” or common phrases like “to be fair” and other colloquialisms not so common in our homeland. I know you’re all wondering about this and yes, it could happen: your accent could slightly change. It’s not a lot, it’s only in certain occasions like when you’re talking really fast, but the accent could come out. Fashion, figures of speech, ways of life, all these things become a part of you during your time abroad.
It does seem a bit daunting then that we must go back to America, a land which initially has nothing in common with our homeland, spelling an imminent reverse culture shock upon our return. However, we are so fortunate living in DC. From all of my time abroad, I learned one thing: DC is the London of the United States. Why you may ask? There are several reasons. The sheer number of international people in its borders, the similarly structured public transport system, the being close to other major US cities like New York or Atlanta, the number of embassies, the number of famous people who have walked the streets, it’s all very similar. There were so many moments walking down London streets where I forgot if I was in DC or London; so many of the areas look the exact same as well!
Of course I was not out exploring every second of the day; classes were an integral part of study abroad life. Since lectures per module (oops I mean class) are once a week, it would be a bit silly to miss; you would learn nothing. Through my time in lectures, I recognized some similarities with our homegrown GWSB system of education. For example, in Consumer Psychology, a module for juniors, I learned about Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions and psychographics, things we learned in Organizational Behavior freshman year. In Persuasive Strategies in Marketing we analyzed mostly American advertisements and advice about creating ad campaigns from American businessmen. In short, a lot of my education was based in American studies. Initially, it was a bit of an annoyance, but it showcases how important leaders in the business field we truly are.
Each lecture had a seminar attached, kind of like a discussion section, and those made each class more fun. It was great to interact with more British or international students and hear different perspectives on problems and see the different ways in which students in other countries learn the fundamentals of business. Naturally, GW’s education methods are more familiar to me, but it was cool to be indoctrinated into another education system.
Schools here condense a business education into three years and they have more electives; people can choose concentrations in their second year while having more business classes. Things like liberal arts, science and language are not classes they take here. Yet, from talking to many, they are jealous: they like the idea of being able to take a class that has nothing to directly do with your major, yet you are interested in. It makes me very grateful for the way our education is structured.
So maybe education is not the one thing I will miss the most about London. I will miss, however, the close proximity to other places. Over this trip, I visited Edinburgh (where I am now), Dublin, Paris, Oxford, Liverpool, Berlin, Venice, Amsterdam and Prague, and I will be visiting Cardiff, York and Canterbury in the next week (assuming you’re reading this before then). So exciting and so cheap to travel to all these places many only dream of ever seeing.
I’ll also miss the people, the lifelong friends I have made, the city, the food, the general amazingness of London. I mean it is home after all: the longest time I have ever spent away from home in my entire life and it is my world, my life as of now. It makes it a bit hard to comprehend going back to a “foreign” world of America and having to get reacquainted with the lifestyle.
Nevertheless, I am extremely proud I survived the months. I cannot begin to think how many times I thought I would want to buy the plane ticket home. One or two times I did, but I never went through with it and I am so grateful I did. London has been the most life-changing experience and one of the best experiences anyone could ever ask for. I made so many new friends, saw so many places, ate so many great foods, had so many great experiences, I would not even trade in a single day for them.
The sum total of this is that YOU SHOULD STUDY ABROAD. I know it sounds hardly believable but remember, I am just like you. I am a business student, a junior, someone who has never been that entirely far away from home in my 21 year existence. I survived. If I can do it, you sure can do it too. Study abroad is the most rewarding and unforgettable experience you will ever have. It broadens your horizons; it makes new places feel like home and gives you new horizons for the future. Hey, you could even end up settling in the city you study in for work. For some of us, that is always the goal Remember to push yourself and don’t miss out on, as cliché as it is, the opportunity that will change your life.
Best of luck picking and bon voyage!
Jonathan Rice is a GWSB Junior pursuing a BBA with a dual concentration in Marketing and International Business. To read more about Arcadia’s program at Queen Mary, click here.
The Hong Kong Syracuse abroad program is broken into three modules. The first being a two-week history based trip through South East Asia and the second being ten weeks of courses. The full abroad experience is topped off with a five-week internship to shed greater light on doing business abroad and the differences that are associated with it. Thanks to a GW Alumni event in Hong Kong I was able to secure my internship through David Williams (ESIA MA’02) at Big Ass Fans. This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the far-reaching network of the GW community as well as the countless networking incentives they provide.
The Big Ass Fans Hong Kong office was recently launched by David one year ago and has expanded into a five man staff that covers sales and service throughout East Asia. As an international business intern I’ve been working to find and follow up on new leads while finding unique sites for future installation. Beyond the basic differences in language and location, our office is most unique with the culture trends of Hong Kong, the melting pot of the world. As new customers enter our showroom our style of sales, marketing, and communication must differ to ensure a seamless transaction. I believe the culture surrounding local business as influenced me most during my internship and inevitably my time abroad.
Hong Kong is not all business. When not working, the locals are the most inviting group of people. The Hong Kong locals pride themselves on respect and Guanxi. Guanxi can be described as a more-loose version of Western reciprocity. Through such beliefs I’ve been able to become close friends with people of all ages and have had the chance to have a more localized abroad experience than some students. The most rewarding part for me is knowing that someday if I end up in Hong Kong, these relationships will still be strong. I do look forward to being home with family and friends in a week but I will miss Hong Kong.
Reid Breck is a GWSB Junior pursuing a BBA with a dual concentration in Marketing and International Business. To read more about this semester abroad program in Hong Kong through Syracuse University, click here.
In the third and final chapter of classes with GWSB Paris, we took Financial Management and Markets. While I was nervous in the beginning, as this was my first (maybe last) finance class, the course was very interesting for someone who is not math and number minded like me.
While I can’t speak for finance courses at GW, in Paris having the course 3 hours each morning was very conducive to learning and I was able devote all my attention to the material. Finance was composed of 3 exams on smaller segments of the course (3 chapters each). My roommates and I would spend lazy Sunday’s sitting around the apartment studying and listening to all of our favorite holiday music. (Frozen is shockingly great to study to.)
GWSB Paris also takes students on site visits to further enrich us into the course we are in. First, we were taken to AXA a global insurance company where two representatives offered us a holistic overview (and croissants and coffee) of their company and AXA’s role throughout the world.
The second site visit took us to Brussels, Belgium to visit the European Exchange Commission. After an early morning trek via train from Paris, we arrived in Brussels after only 1.5 hours. A speaker for the European Exchange Commission came to speak to us for a few hours on the economy in the EU and many of the different factors which play into the overall global economy. Once we finished a question and answer period we walked to the small cozy restaurant where all the GW Paris students enjoyed great food before a walking tour of the city.
The walking tour gave us all the ins and outs of the city and the tour guide answered our burning questions such as, “Where can we get the best waffles and fries?” So after the tour we made it our mission to find those very things. Shamelessly, we were successful. It goes without saying that you can’t leave Brussels without at least a waffle, with enough options to choose from, you could have a different waffle every meal for the week.
And just like that, finance ended as fast as it came. And now we’re nearing the end of our stay in Paris. For our third and final long weekend I traveled to the south of France to Nice and Monaco. It was a solo adventure for me, and ended up being some of the best 3 days I’ve had. (Traveling alone can be a scary but such a rewarding experience). The south of France is filled with color, life and great food and I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of going.
After Nice, I traded French for English and hopped across the pond to London for 3 more days of excursions. Here, I got to tour the city and all the sites and enjoy the beginning of the holiday season, as London is really festive with lights on all the streets and a huge festival in Hyde Park.
The last month has flown by faster then I could have imagined, same as the entire semester! All that’s left now between me and heading back to the states is a few classes, some GW excursions in Paris and an extra week to travel! Overall Paris has been a thrilling and amazing time, and is an experience I won’t soon forget!
Justin Pollock is a Junior in GWSB pursuing a BBA with a dual concentration in Marketing & Sport, Event, and Hospitality Management. To read more about GWSB’s Signature Study Abroad Program, Fall Business in Paris, click here.