Category Archives: Undergrad
The Power of Story Telling
By Chris Cavalea
In terms of my internship experience, I consider myself extremely lucky. Over the past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to work for institutions and professionals that have shaped my knowledge, habits, and outlook. However, gaining access to these valuable insights and experiences was challenging, mostly because of the strict hiring and interviewing procedures involved. After two years in college, and a handful of interviews ranging from casual to professional, I have come to a simple realization about college students and internship interviews. This realization, I believe, will help students conquer the most terrifying part of the hiring process, and help them more clearly express themselves to potential managers.
Often, students perform poorly in interviews because they spend too much time talking about what they can do for the company, and not enough time expressing who they are to the interviewer. The best way to tell a person who you are is to tell them a story. This reasoning applies to interviews just as well as it does to blind dates. Stories allow you to demonstrate your skills by illustrating them through contextual experiences. They help others gain insights into who you are, what you do, and how you feel about it. Rather than telling an interviewer about your critical thinking skills, you should be demonstrating that you have these skills and have used them to better yourself in the past. Rather than talking about the last company you worked for, you should be telling a story about the struggles involved in adapting to the workplace, the risks you took to prove yourself to your coworkers, and the patience you demonstrated while in conflict with your manager.
I encourage you to think for a moment about your last interview, but from the perspective of the interviewer. Try to walk in their shoes for a moment, and take a good look around. What would you want a 20-year-old college student to say? What would impress you, and what would you connect with?
• Does this potential employee have the skills necessary for the job, and have they proven that they can access/use them successfully?
• Would this employee fit in with the company culture? Does he/she have the same mentality as those he/she will be working with?
• Does this potential employee know what failure feels like? Are they the kind of person who can handle setbacks? Do they give up easily, or are they resilient and focused on learning
• Can this person accurately identify their strengths and weaknesses? What do they do with that knowledge? How has their awareness influenced their mentality over time?
As you start to think about these underlying questions, you might begin to wonder how successfully you answered them in your last interview. When you think about it, these aren’t questions about what you can do; they’re questions about who you are as an independent student/professional/thinker.
No matter what job we have, we are not machines searching for the next accomplishment. We are business thinkers with rich history, experiences, and attitudes that add value and dimensions to the workplace. Telling stories establishes this separation in the eyes of an interviewer and will greatly expand your opportunities moving forward in your career.
It’s been an entire week since I’ve arrived in Paris, France! That is incredibly hard to believe, as I feel like I’ve done so much already, both as part of my program and on my own. I’m participating in GW’s Paris Fall Business Program, designed exclusively for GWSB students. That means you!
Settling in over the past week has been a very interesting process, and it applies to a myriad of things – meeting my classmates, figuring out my neighborhood, and integrating myself into the French culture. In total, there are nineteen students from GW participating in the program, all taking three GW Business courses (Marketing, Finance, and Human Resources) and two electives. Five French students from SciencesPo (the university hosting us) are in our classes as well. Just like at GW, everyone is really diverse and brings a lot to the table in terms of their own experiences and backgrounds. We have people from all regions of the US, as well as Puerto Rico and Switzerland!
The majority of us American students have apartments within close proximity to one another, which makes it easy to study together or hang out. I’m living in the 13th arrondisement (Paris is divided into 20 arrondisements, or districts), which is south of the Seine River and only about twenty or thirty minutes from school. I’m sharing a cozy apartment with three other GW girls – it has a living room, kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, and lots of IKEA furniture! No complaints here. Living in our location means that there are multiple ways to get to school, such as taking the metro, streetcar, bus, or a bike. My roommates and I have discovered that catching the streetcar (or tram, we call it) and then getting onto the metro is the most efficient way. Thankfully, living in DC definitely prepared us for frequent use of public transportation!
Whether on the metro, in a shop, or at a restaurant, each place that I find myself in gives me an opportunity to use my French. Though I’ve been studying the language since high school, my grasp on it is nowhere near perfect and sometimes creates issues. The other day when we were shopping for French cell phone plans as a group, the phone store’s employees didn’t speak English, so we had to be very careful to make sure we knew all the details of what we were purchasing. Other times, though, the language difference has enhanced my experiences in a good way, such through creating cultural exchange with the SciencesPo students. We’ve taught them American-isms like adding “ish” onto the end of a word, or describing something as “salty,” and they’ve taught us things like the word “coloc” (which means roomie). They’re all really welcoming and eager to learn more about us, just like we are about them.
One challenge about settling in that I’m facing right now is inherent in studying abroad: studying. Our group’s welcome program lasted this entire week, and it included a guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay, a boat ride on the Seine, and meals at various places around the city. With class starting tomorrow though, I had to remind myself how to take notes! It’ll be interesting to find out where the best places to study are, whether it’s in SciencePo’s ultra modern library, a cafe down the street, or right here at home with my roommates.
Ultimately, each day brings new opportunities to learn more about the French culture and how Parisians live. Although Paris is a big city environment like DC, the French seem to take their time a little bit more, whether it’s over their morning espresso or dinner with a friend late at night. I hope this semester won’t go by too quickly, either – though I’ve only been here for a week and still have a lot to explore, so far it’s been, undoubtedly, fantastique!
Mary Catherine Bitter is a GWSB Junior pursuing a BBA with a concentration in Information Systems Management. She is also a member of the University Honors Program. To learn more about GWSB’s Fall Business in Paris program, read here.
Finding your Perfect Job in Unexpected Places
By Megan Krishnamurthy
Last year, I went to a wedding and was asked by another attendee what my “career aspirations” were. Without even thinking, I responded that I had none. The jaw of the woman I was speaking to dropped, and for a few moments I was slightly embarrassed by my response. As evidenced by the anecdote above, I had no idea what direction I wanted my career path to take. My career goals changed from day to day, and I wanted to be everything from a lawyer to a restaurant owner to an entrepreneur. I envied my friends who were studying to be doctors or lawyers because there was a natural career progression associated with those professions. I have come across so many people my age who say they know exactly what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives. However, I feel like there are a lot of people out there who are afraid to admit that they have no idea what they want out of a job.
My advice to these people is to go out and experience as much as you can. I’ve spent my last three years of college in various internships in an attempt to find that “dream job.” My biggest takeaway from these years of exploration is that your perfect job may be something you have never even heard of. In my case, I found an unexpectedly great fit in a newly created division of JP Morgan called Investor Services. I applied for a summer internship at JP Morgan in New York City on a whim and accepted an offer after my super day interviews. Next, my fellow interns and I were put through a placement process that assigned us to a specific line of business and group within Investor Services. I had the fortune of getting my first choice during the placement process and ended up in a group known as Prime Brokerage Capital Introduction. Essentially, the team works with hedge funds in order to help them find investors and puts out research on the hedge fund industry. My internship combined finance with more qualitative elements of business such as marketing and event management.
As someone enjoys working on a multitude of different projects, I was fortunate to have worked on a variety of different projects. I created presentations, built models, edited research pieces, and helped plan events for JP Morgan’s hedge fund clients. Before this summer, I had never heard of Investor Services, Prime Brokerage, or Capital Introduction. However, I am so happy that I gave this internship a chance, because it ended up being a great fit for my personality and skill set. I am proud to say that I will be returning to JP Morgan full-time next summer. While I still don’t know how my career will progress, I do know that I am much more open to the unexpected and unheard of opportunities that I hope will come my way again.
One of the most obvious benefits about studying abroad is meeting new people and attempting to understand the way that the people live in the country in which you are spending several months. As my time in Santiago, Chile is coming to an end, I have been reflecting on what I have learned, the people I have met, and the experiences I have had. I have come to the conclusion that the most rewarding part of my semester is the relationships I have built with Chileans, as well as those I have built with the other GW students studying on my program. I have realized making such good Chilean friends not only improved my classes and expanded my understanding of the culture, but helped with classes and led to further exploration of the city.
Living with a host family has truly showed me how Chileans live on a day-to-day basis. I have been able to see how adults and family celebrate holidays such as birthdays or Children’s Day, as opposed to just knowing how students my age live. I have bonded with my host family in a unique way because we live under the same roof, which has resulted in us having extremely rewarding conversations. Also, it is comforting to have a family who I can talk to when I am feeing down and a mother to take care of me when I am sick. Living with a host family at a time when you are so far away from your real family really does make a difference. My host mom and host sister are truly part family to me now and I am going to miss them terribly when I leave.
Although GW Chile offers 2 GW classes that are only for GW students, based on credits, we are required to take at least 2 other classes at the local universities. Some of my classes are with other GW students, but in some I am the only foreigner. Upon reflecting about my experience, I realized that the times when I meet the most people and make the most Chilean friends are when I am alone. All of my best friends in Santiago came from my Marketing class where I am the only foreigner. Putting myself out there made a huge difference because I established bonds with Chileans. Some of my fondest memories this semester include watching Chilean qualifier games for the World Cup, grilling for dinner, or just relaxing at the university, all with Chilean friends.
If you think about it, the people you surround yourself with really make or break your experiences and in this case it definitely made mine. I am extremely sad about leaving these new friends after only knowing them for a few months because they are the reason I love Chile so much. While I am excited to get back to DC and GWSB, I know I will miss my host family and friends, but thank goodness for Skype and Whatsapp!
Although I have talked a lot about Chileans, I do have to give a shout-out to GW Chile. The 12 other GW students on my program were my second family this semester. Almost everything I went through this semester, they experienced as well. They are the friends I mostly traveled with and are adventurous like me. I know they were always there for me, and I am so glad I do not have to say goodbye to them, since I will see most of them at GW next semester.
The relationships I built with new friends were definitely the best part about study abroad. These friendships will last me for years to come, and are a large part of the reason I want to return to Chile as soon as possible!
This is Abigail’s second post from Chile. Read her first here. Abigail is a GWSB junior seeking her BBA with a dual concentration in International Business and Sport, Event, and Hospitality Management.
To find out more information on GW’s Study Program in Chile, click here.
Don’t cry for me Argentina. I will be back. | Steven Dyer Shares How IBUS in Argentina Changed His Life
The question I get on a daily basis is: “Where are you from?” Upon arriving in late July, I admired that Porteños acknowledged so quickly and were interested in where I had come from. I did not even have to open my mouth to attempt a word in Spanish before they knew I was not from here. Now, after four and a half months, when I am asked that same question I am almost offended. I don’t feel different, but the question brings me back to the reality that no matter how good my accent is, how many kisses I give, or how many empañadas I eat, I am actually not a Porteño and in a matter of days I’m going to be leaving.
Looking back, I vividly remember entering the Ezeiza airport and noticing the unorganized and chaotic Argentine culture. It feels like last week I was going through orientation, being taught the culture norms and how to do operate in the city, like using the bus system or the Argentine Peso. Today, after living in Buenos Aires and traveling to four cities around the country I have truly experienced it all. From the glaciers of Patagonia to the Iguazu falls, to Mendoza wine country by the Andes Mountains, I have seen the natural and pristine beauty that this amazing country has to offer. Couple that with a unique and cultural city, known as the “Paris of South America”, and you have a pretty spectacular semester.
This program is unlike any other study abroad program. As a transfer student, I had limited options because I still had many credit requirements and wouldn’t be able to take a lot of electives; I needed a semester that would be academically equivalent to a normal GW semester. Additionally, I didn’t have any advanced language education. This program allowed me to take GW classes taught by a mix of GW and Argentine professors at a local university. Our classes were basically the same as they would be at GW and all of our core grades transferred. Being able to take Spanish was not only extremely useful, but also an additional perk to the program – I can now speak Spanish well! The program consisted of thirteen GWSB students, and after four months I can honestly say I have twelve new friends that I have shared new findings, cultural struggles, and overall crazy experiences. They were a huge part of my experience and I would not trade sharing my experience with them for anything.
Two people I am really going to miss are my host parents, Enrique and Rosa. I was so incredibly blessed to be placed with two of the most amazing people I have ever met and now consider them my real family. Without them, this experience would not have been the same. They cooked me amazing meals, taught me Spanish, helped me understand the city, and took care of me when I was sick. I also learned life lessons from them like, “Money isn’t happiness.” “Money can buy you a trip to Cancun, but then the trip is over.” “In order to be happy you need faith and a set of values to guide you through life.”
This being my first time outside of the U.S., I had no idea what I was going to expect. I had no idea how I would react to the cultural differences, being away from home for so long, or how I was going to communicate in Spanish. While there were definitely bumps in the road, I really surprised myself on how well I handled this huge change. Not only did I learn about international business and how to do business in Argentina, but I also learned about myself and what I am capable of doing. Lauren Beilin, the GW Resident Director in Buenos Aires, told us before we left that study abroad was not going to change our lives but that we needed to change our lives while studying abroad. After my semester here in Buenos Aires, I am confident I changed my life studying abroad and I thank GWSB, the Office of Study Abroad, and my supportive parents for making this possible.
Don’t cry for me Argentina. I will be back.
Steven Dyer is a Junior in GWSB pursuing a BBA with a dual concentration in International Business and Business Economics & Public Policy. To read more about the IBUS in Argentina program, click here.
Three months ago, I was a ball of stress as study abroad loomed over my head. Moving to a country with a different language and culture becomes quite overwhelming the closer your study abroad date gets, but in the end my fears and reservations were overtaken by my sheer excitement. I have now happily lived in Vienna, Austria for a little over three months and have mostly adapted to the Viennese way of life. I will be here for at least another 5 months, but with all my new friends leaving soon to go back home it has left me time to reflect on my time so far in Vienna including the culture, my university, new friendships, and some 20/20 hindsight.
Being in Austria I have come to understand the inner workings of a different culture, which I am constantly trying to make sense of. Things I appreciate about the Austrian culture are how on time and efficient they are. I take the metro a lot and it is always on time as are trains when you are traveling around the country. If you don’t arrive somewhere at least 5 minutes early here you are already late. Being a punctual person myself I wish I could bring this promptness back to the States! As for one aspect about the Austrian culture I have yet to get used to is the no talking on public transportation. On the metro there is usually complete silence even when people ride the metro together, so the exchange students tend to stick out, since we talk up a storm. The quietness of the Austrian culture reflects how private people are here, which is quite a contrast from the openness of Americans.
I currently attend the Wirtschaftsuniversität or WU, the Vienna University of Economics & Business, on an Exchange. Coming from GW I have always been immersed in the college lifestyle of staying busy, such as being involved in student orgs and having an internship. However, in Vienna the school style is a little more relaxed. At GW everyone is trying to get out of school as fast as possible, while here in Vienna it is not a big deal if you go an extra year or so, and internships are not as prevalent. Unfortunately, this laidback lifestyle is something I have not been able to incorporate into my being, but it is still an interesting difference to note. I must also note how well GWSB has prepared me concerning business classes and interactions. It is nice to have had so much practice with presentations and group work, even though it has not always been my favorite, because all my WU classes require both.
Before study abroad I did not expect to make lasting friendships, but I can truly say I have made some lifelong friends. My time in Vienna would have been much duller without the lively characters I have come to adore. Living through the ups and downs of culture shock together has cultivated such strong bonds within my group.
Overall, my study abroad experience so far has been amazing. I have been able to travel all over Europe and spend time with some amazing people. The only things I wish I had done before I left for Vienna was more research. It was quite shocking to realize when I got sick that picking up over the counter cold medicine is not as easy as going to your local drugstore. But this brings me to another major lesson, which is that accidents such as getting on the wrong train or getting completely lost test you personally and make for the best memories.
Jami is a Junior at GWSB pursuing her BBA in International Business. She is studying abroad at WU for the full academic year. To read more about GW’s Exchange Program with Vienna University of Economics & Business, click here.
July 10, 2014
GW’s faculty-led short-term study abroad offerings continue to provide students with dynamic and far-reaching experiences that deepen their understanding about lessons from the classroom. One newcomer to the roster this summer was “International Perspectives on Green Business,” led by International Business Professor and Green Marketing expert Anna Helm, in which students engaged in consulting projects with Swedish firms in the CleanTech industry. Professor Helm has taught similar MBA-level consulting courses in the School of Business for several years, but this was a first for undergraduate students.
Following classroom sessions in Foggy Bottom, 10 students accompanied Professor Helm to Sweden, a country leader in environmentally sustainable practices, where they traveled to Stockholm and beyond.
In Västerås, they met Vice President and Head of Public Affairs at ABB, Sweden and Northern Europe, Mats Holmberg, and learned about building a successful international business. In Stockholm, they visited the offices of Stockholm Innovation and Growth, KTH’s Student Inc, and the Swedish Institute, and took in Stockholm’s historical sights, including Gamla Stan, the Vasa Museum, the Royal Castle and Armory. An invitation to a private luncheon and tour of the Swedish Parliament was much appreciated by the students, who gained unique perspectives from their engagement with Staffan Anger, elected parliamentarian (Moderate Party) and Finance Committee member.
The students also explored Viking history and culture at Frösåkers Brygga, where they learned about Swedish cuisine with Viking Chieftain and Michelin Chef Jan-Erik Kockum and rowed on nearby Lake Mälaren.
Throughout the course, the students put their international business skills and new insights about CleanTech to practice, developing U.S. market entry plans for Swedish clients Parans, a solar lighting company, and Centriair, a firm specializing in developing and marketing gas treatment for the food processing industry and waste/water/biogas handling. Helm was impressed by the performance of her undergraduate students, who, she says, “delivered substantive and actionable recommendations to their clients, applying theories and frameworks from their International Business and other coursework and gleaning important lessons from the many site visits in Sweden in order to optimize the value of their consulting service to the clients.”
One of my goals with study abroad was to expand my learning in a way that I wouldn’t easily be able to do in the US or at GW. My first instinct was to study abroad in a country where I would be able to improve my Spanish skills and hopefully become fluent after studying the language on and off since 6th grade. While this was a worthy goal and something that definitely would have challenged me and helped me grow, I decided to give up a semester in Latin America for a different kind of experience.
Upon requesting letters of recommendation from professors, I was surprised to not universally get the advice I had expected; rather than exclusively applaud my decision to try to learn Spanish, some professors challenged me to think about what study abroad could mean to me educationally, not just culturally. As one professor put it, it is easy to go visit a country for several weeks and see the area and experiment with the language, but it can be more valuable to seek a whole different kind of experience altogether. My decision ultimately came down to studying in Argentina with the IBUS program or studying economics at Oxford. Although I certainly would have gained language skills in Argentina, I hope to encounter a whole new style of learning at Oxford.
Although I have only been here for 5 days, I have already begun to get settled and make friends both with students from the US studying abroad like myself, and with Oxford students who will be at St Anne’s College for their entire college experience. After finding out I was assigned one of the smallest rooms on campus (it is in fact famous, and quite the attraction for students in my hall), I recovered, and have started to enjoy all that Oxford has to offer.
Despite not having formally begun classes yet, I have had a chance to observe some of the famous architecture that makes up this university, and the more I see, the more I can understand why this university was featured as a location for certain parts of the Harry Potter films. Upon receiving reading lists and syllabi, I also have begun to learn about the academic rigor that comes along with attending this university. This week is my first of attending class in the tutorial system, and I will be sure to report back soon with more information and details as they emerge!
Gregory Lidrbauch is a GWSB Junior in the Honors Program and studying Finance. He also serves as a GWSB Ambassador. To read more about GW’s study abroad program to St. Anne’s College at University of Oxford click here.
Cliché study abroad sentence #1: If you told me the first day that I arrived in Spain the experiences I would have had up to this point, I wouldn’t have believe anything you said. I remember perfectly the day of travel that I endured to get to Pamplona, a small city in the heart of the Northern Spain province of Navarra, an hour south of France and three hours west of Barcelona. My day began with a canceled flight from Logan to JFK, a re-route to Heathrow followed by a six-hour layover, and then finally on to Madrid and Pamplona.
The night I arrived I was too exhausted to want to speak Spanish, but I felt I should try. As I left the airport I asked my taxi driver in Spanish if he accepted credit cards. He immediately responded in English, allowing us to have a laugh at how poor my accent was.
This was one of the few highlights of my first few days here, which consisted of getting lost for three hours (blessing and a curse), finding nobody who speaks English, being without Wifi for three days, and realizing that my apartment is in fact a 45 minute walk from campus, not the 15 minutes I was told by the landlord. Cliché study abroad sentence #2: While these first few days were very difficult, I’m almost glad that they went the way they did because they helped me understand that living in a different country wasn’t going to be easy at first. It was nice to be cut off from the internet and world of cell phones for a few days, as I had the opportunity to explore the city and practice my Spanish. Putting in the effort the first few weeks has definitely put me in the position to make the friends that I have, improve in another language, and travel to some incredible places.
The beauty of spending the semester in Northern Spain is the variety of terrain, and the number of small towns that are easily accessible by bus and train for outrageously low prices. Just to name a few, I’ve visited small towns like Olite where a castle from the 1200’s still rises above the cobblestone streets.
There are mountains in the Pyranees such as Candanchu, where the powder skiing compares to nothing on the east coast of the US. Aside from a trip to California in sixth grade, that day of skiing may have been the best of my seventeen years in the sport. Then there’s San Sebastian, a small town on the Bay of Biscay and fifteen minutes from the French border that has views of the water you wouldn’t believe.
Cliché study abroad sentence #3: While people talk about it over and over again, the travel in Europe is incredible compared to the United States. With buses and trains going virtually anywhere, not to mention the cheap flights that can be booked to any major city using the right airline, it presents great opportunities to travel to a new place every day. On a trip to Bierritz, a group of friends and I actually entered France via train without even realizing.
It took a confused three-quarter Spanish, one-quarter French conversation in a local bakery to realize we had actually crossed the border. Hopefully in my next blog I can add a little more about the actual school, seeing as I’m the first person from GW Business School to come here, but the experience all around has been truly phenomenal. Cliché study abroad sentence #4: In two days I will have been here for exactly one month, and if the next four are anything like the first, I may never be able to leave.
Ian Woller is a GWSB Junior studying Finance. He is studying abroad at University of Nevarra in Pamplona, Spain, taking a mix of business courses and electives. To learn more about the exchange program with GW, visit the Office for Study Abroad’s here.
Grand Place in Downtown Brussels
The last month has been a blur. An exciting, amazing, incredible blur – but a blur nonetheless. I’ve been living in Europe since January 12th and have loved every minute of my time here. Everything has been magical – from eating Belgian waffles on my walk to class in the morning, to visiting World War II foxholes in Bastogne, to spending a weekend in the city of lights.
Sometimes I forget that the life I’m living right now isn’t normal. As I walked along the Seine this past weekend, I had to remind myself that the giant structure I was staring at was actually the Eiffel Tower; I’ve seen it hundreds of times before, but this time I was in Paris, looking at the real thing.
It was an incredible moment that I’ve been dreaming of ever since I read about Madeline’s trip to the emergency room to have her appendix removed and watched Mary Kate and Ashley eat escargot in Passport to Paris. It’s not every day you visit Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Musée du Louvre, and Pont des Arts before the sun goes down. I can’t believe how lucky I am to finally be living my dream, however cliched that may be.
Enough about Paris, though – Brussels is my European home. Brussel/Bruxelles/Brussels has an undisputed Washington, D.C. vibe – a local described both cities to me as “government with a bit of funk.” Government buildings populate downtown, but once you venture into the surrounding neighborhoods you find a vibrant artistic community and nightlife scene.
Brussels is also described as a “melting pot of different cultures,” a phrase commonly associated with both the United States and Washington, D.C. Brussels is described as such because, as the capital of the EU, it is home to a large population of international expats. I can attest to this, as one of my housemates is an Italian banker who’s been an expat in many different countries around the world.
I think I haven’t experienced severe culture shock yet because my environment is fairly similar to home; I ride the metro, speak English frequently (“Bonjour, ça va? Uhh..umm..parlez-vous anglais?” is how most of my conversations start), and make myself cous cous and vegetables for dinner. Not too much has changed, except for the fact that I’m living in an attic, it rains almost every day, I travel to different countries on the weekends, and I go to school with 300 people I’ve never met before. (Who am I kidding, everything has changed.)
In May, Europe will feel like a far-away fantasy world, and my experiences will be distant, dream-like memories. My goal from now until then is to live the study abroad experience to the best of my ability – traveling, connecting with locals, practicing my french, and making the most of every moment. Oh, and eating my weight in waffles, chocolate, and frites.
Carly (Caroline) Walsh is a GWSB Junior studying Marketing. She is currently abroad on GW’s Business, Communications, and Culture Program in Brussels with CIEE. Click here to read more about it.
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