A Jon M. Huntsman School of Business student, who recently served an internship in Brazil, said he came back with a Brazilian heart.
No, he had not just completed an internship as a surgeon. Cohen Summers had been working at Banco Itaú S.A. in Sao Paulo.
Erik Kaltschmidt, a senior majoring in international business, works on a PowerPoint while company leaders at Xi’an Beta Market Research look on.
“I would love to return to Brazil,” Summer said. “It is an amazing country, and my heart is now Brazilian.”
His work included helping a number of employees with their business English, in part, by developing and teaching a bi-weekly business communications course. Another student, Tyler Smith, a senior majoring in managerial economics and Spanish, worked at the same bank. He also said he enjoyed and benefited from his experience. However, he came back convinced he would like to work for a smaller company but found the international experience “stimulating and beneficial.”
Paige Geslin and Krystn Clark have heard this kind of feedback before. Geslin is the internship director for the Huntsman School of Business and Clark is the internship coordinator. They would consider both reactions positive.
“We tell students if you get into an internship and you find yourself wondering, ‘Why did I ever think this major was for me?’ that’s good,” Geslin said. “You were able to test drive your major. Now, if you want to tweak or change your goals before you graduate, you can refocus on something more fulfilling to you.”
Geslin and Clark know what they are talking about. During 2007 – 2008 academic year, 351 Huntsman students completed internships. This number doesn’t count internships students completed without taking the corresponding internship course.
Clark said increasing numbers of students are interested in doing international internships. In the 2006 – 2007 year, only five students did international internships. The next year there were 16 students who went abroad and this year that number will continue to grow. Students have served internships in China, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Peru and Brazil.
The vast majority of students report the internships are challenging and rewarding. Some are surprised at just how much trust is invested in them once they prove themselves.
Josh Kerkmann said when he initially arrived at his internship with Bosch in Waiblingen, Germany, his supervisor was away. They put him to work organizing business cards. Kerkmann was beginning to think he’d made a big mistake because he had passed up an opportunity to be CFO of a local company so he could serve the internship.
“My internship at Bosch started off slow, but as my responsibilities increased, people grew to trust me,” Kerkmann said. “In fact, my opinion was eventually sought out by the vice president of packing technology. What really surprised me was that one of my coworkers even named his son after me. I must have done something right.”
Eddie Norton, a senior in accounting and economics, worked for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its Perpetual Education Department in Lima, Peru. There, in addition to the daily accounting and audits he performed, he taught classes at various locations.
“Every night I taught hundreds of students who wanted to learn how to start a business,” Norton said. “That was strange.”
Geslin said she has confidence Huntsman students will rise to the challenge when she lines up internships for them.
“For the most part, our interns are given very real responsibilities,” Geslin said. “That’s why the internship course is so valuable. It ensures students are given quality work and will not be stuck filing or fetching coffee. During the first couple of weeks, the interns sit down with their work supervisors and set very structured goals or projects they will accomplish during the internship experience. Students then complete weekly assignments for internship credits. We also arrange an onsite or phone visit with every intern and with their work supervisor for a progress check.”
In addition to learning a new job, students serving international internships often have to learn to be flexible and work with people from varying cultural backgrounds.
Erik Kaltschmidt, a senior majoring in international business and economics, said his internships in Xi’an, China, gave him confidence. He worked for Xi’an Beta Market Research and the King Dynasty Hotel.
“The most important thing I developed was an inner confidence that I can do just about anything I put my mind to,” said Kaltschmidt. “I found success in a completely different culture, working two jobs, in two industries that were new to me. I managed to do this despite the fact that I had no language abilities and I had never before visited China.”
Employers seem to appreciate the business-world experience students gain. Nationwide, more than 65 percent of students are offered jobs after they serve their internships, Geslin said.
“In business, you have to have practical experience,” Clark said.
Joseph Ure, who served an internship at the U.S. Consulate Commercial Service, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in international business and operations management. He said he received offers from five major companies in late 2008 and went to work for BAE Systems, the world’s third largest defense contractor.
“Utah State students should not feel intimidated or inadequate,” he said. “They can compete in the business world if they are driven and determined to accomplish their goals. We can achieve success at the highest possible levels even in the hardest of economic times.”
At Banco Itaú, Summers and Smith were asked to complete some significant assignments, in addition to teaching business English. They created operational flow charts of all the services that their area provided for the customer, and they created and implemented two databases. The two students were the first international interns at Banco Itaú, and helped develop the internship program for future Huntsman interns.
“From this internship I now have a better idea of who I am, what I want to do, and by working in such an environment I have the skills to be successful,” Summers said. “So, to sum it up in one phrase: an internship helps open a doorway to your future.”
For more pictures of students participating in international internships click here.