Why did you decide to intern with International Internships in Brazil?
Ironically, I decided to pursue an internship in Brazil while I was studying abroad in London, UK during my junior year at Susquehanna University. You can say that I got the international travel bug and it did not end with a few months in Europe. My internship opportunity originated with the Eric Stein Fellowship program offered by the Sigmund Weis School of Business to support students for international internships. The fellowship assisted with the airfare, housing costs, and basic living costs.
I first learned about International Internships from my program advisor and conducted research on the potential internships that the company could connect me to. I chose Brazil due to its diverse culture and growing economy. My internship criteria included a focus on finance and international business experience. After I was notified of my placement, I decided to take the risk of interning in another country for several weeks, and I am still benefiting from the decision today.
International Internships helped me organize my internship contact information, plan my travel arrangements, ensure proper visa paperwork, and find suitable housing. I learned that due diligence for the proper visa paperwork is critical because Brazil has strict visa requirements. It was great to have an advocate assist in the process because I did not have to worry about finalizing all of the internship logistics. My internship supervisor was given my contact information a few months prior to my planned arrival, which gave me confidence in my placement and experience.
What made this experience unique and special?
First, my experience served as a learning opportunity to adapt to unfamiliar environments quickly. I neither knew the language well, nor the country, nor the business I was interning for. It was a humbling experience. Every day basic activities such as grocery shopping or communicating with someone were a challenge. It was an uncomfortable feeling for the first few weeks, but my coworkers and housemates made the transition easier than I expected.
Second, my coworkers made sure that I was exposed to many facets of the business and many cultural norms of Brazilian citizens. They taught me about the segments of the business, the manufacturing process, the administration function, and the science behind the designs of the products they produced. Outside of the workplace, I was invited to play golf, participate in a Jeep off-road adventure, and dining out at restaurants. My coworkers also helped me organize trips to various cities within Brazil on the weekends. I was fortunate to visit Sao Paulo and the beaches of Guaruja.
Lastly, my housing arrangements made my experience very unique. I lived in a "Republica" with eight Brazilian students that attended a nearby university. The arrangement allowed me to interact with Brazilians every day, form friendships, and develop communication skills. My housemates were very grateful to have me stay with them, and I was treated like family. They introduced me to the area, taught me about the Brazilian culture, and traveled with me on the weekends. I could not have asked for a better housing situation.
How has this experience impacted your future?
My internship experience has broadened my horizon and understanding of international business and what it means to be a global citizen. I have always read about international business concepts in college textbooks, but it does not become apparent until you experience it. During my senior year at Susquehanna University, I was able to draw on examples of personal experiences for classroom learning and provide perspective in lectures. In addition, I was able to broaden the scope of the Stein Fellowship internships.
Interning in Brazil helped me become a better communicator across languages, adapt to unfamiliar work environments quickly, and adjust to different cultural norms. Some cultural differences are as simple as how you greet someone, workplace priorities, and the balance between work and life. Each week, I became more accustomed to the cultural value system. I learned that Brazilians enjoy the company of others and everyone is of equal status in a social setting. No titles or experience gaps come between individuals outside of the workplace.
After graduation from college, my experience served as a primary talking point during job interviews. It made my background unique compared to United States-based internships. Job recruiters wanted to hear about my experience just as much as I wanted to share my experience with them. The internship added value to my business knowledge and perspective, which will follow me throughout my career opportunities.
What was the highlight of your experience?
The highlight of my experience was learning something new each day. The unfamiliar settings challenged me to take advantage of every opportunity. I realized that the chance to travel to Brazil and intern at an international company was a continuation of my global experience. Each morning as I walked out the door, I wondered what would be different or what new challenges I would face. My ten weeks in Brazil taught me to be more flexible and adaptable in my daily expectations. One day I would be learning a new manufacturing process, and the next day I would be learning how Brazilian companies interact with customers from around the world.
In addition, I tried to learn Portuguese through my manager and practice it on a daily basis. I do not consider myself a quick learner when it comes to learning a new language. It was definitely a challenge for me despite similarities to the Spanish language that I studied. However, by the end of my ten-week internship, I was able to learn enough to communicate with other people and navigate around my surroundings. I did not realize that the country of Brazil had so many dialects, which made learning the language even more challenging. I was fortunate to have coworkers that would take the time to educate me.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Brazil?
Interning in Brazil is a great experience and you should take advantage of every opportunity. It is a very diverse country and it has a lot of great places to visit. I would suggest balancing your internship commitment and personal experiences.
My manager encouraged me to travel and experience different parts of Brazil. Traveling around the country could have been easily forgotten if my manager did not make it an internship priority. It would also be beneficial to keep a journal of your internship accomplishments, contributions, and/or experiences. It helped me share about my internship and its value with others.