Alumni Spotlight: AJ Tjaden

AJ is a sophomore at Iowa State University, double majoring in International Business and Marketing, and a minor in Mandarin Chinese. He has lived in China, Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea for 10 years of his life and loved every minute of it. He is heavily involved at Iowa State university as a marketing intern for the athletics department, tour guide, and a member of Theta Chi Fraternity.

Why did you decide to intern abroad with Absolute Internship in Shanghai?

Temple in Nanjing China

AJ: After living in Asia for 10 years of my life, I have always had a special place in my heart for Shanghai, China. I lived in Shanghai for 18 months and since I have left I knew that I would do my best to go back. As a freshman in college, I wanted to start standing out from the crowd, and what better way to start than to have a international internship. I saw my opportunity with Absolute as a way to start my career in the international business market and see if it was something I could see myself doing. Shanghai is known worldwide as the top trade market of Asia, so going back home and to that title was a no brainer. Absolute was very helpful in the interview process and helped me get even more excited for my trip to Shanghai, I credit them with making the best summer of my life so far.

What made this experience unique and special?

AJ: Shanghai has so much to offer everyone, but when I was 14, I hadn’t really experienced it all. For me, just being able to go out to the town at night or during the weekends was what made my time in Shanghai so memorable. It was so much fun to get lost in the city with friends and walk into a restaurant and try their house dishes. Another reason this experience was so special was that I had many peers whom I could relate to and were as excited as I was to see a new city. Just going to the rooftop of a hotel at sundown and looking over the Bund is probably one of the greatest sights I have ever seen. You get to see all the water traffic coming and going, and then you get to see all of the lights come on and light up the city. Shanghai is full of surprises and I have yet to find them all.

How has this experience impacted your future?

AJ: Words cannot describe what my trip to Shanghai has done for me and what I have learned. This trip, even though it was one month, was absolutely without a doubt, the jumpstart to my college career that I needed. For me, Shanghai was the place that allowed me to start branching out and learn what I was capable of. It was nice to go to a city where I knew no one at first, and then by the end of the trip, I had made some lifelong friends that I still keep in contact with. My internship in China helped open my eyes to the different business methods that relate to how different markets can be successful. Finally, Shanghai gave me the appreciation of everything that I have been blessed with, as I got to see first hand what some people live on and how they have managed to live for so long. I can see myself going back to Shanghai very soon, as it never ceases to amaze me in all of its beauty.

World Financial Center in Shanghai

What was the highlight of your experience?

AJ: There is not just one person or one event that took place that made my time in Shanghai memorable. I think just being in a foreign city without parents or really good friends made the experience more enjoyable. I was able to make my own choices and build on from what I had already known about myself. The freedom of my choosing and seeing what the “real life” actually felt like would have to be the highlight of my trip to China. I loved meeting new people, as now I have friends from all over the world and without them, I would not be so successful. The events that took place or the late nights with friends were all so enjoyable, but being able to see what life could be like outside of college was what I really enjoyed. Shanghai is by far my favorite city in the whole world, you cannot go here and expect to be bored, as neither the city or I will allow that to happen.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Shanghai?

AJ: My biggest advice for someone interested in interning abroad would be to go for it even if someone tells you that it is insane. Going abroad is one thing, but having an international internship will jumpstart your career in ways that you would not have imagined. Lots of people thought that I was crazy for doing it at such a young age, but it it better to start then, as you have so much time to learn and you want to get ahead of the competition as much as you can. Another thing to keep in mind when interning abroad is to have an open mind and try new things, that is how you get the most out of your time. Have fun and enjoy it, because you never know if you will be coming back to this amazing country.