Summer Internship!

Name: Jeffrey Chen

Type of Project: Work Experience / Study Abroad

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

My STEP Project involved participating in an international internship sponsored by the Fisher College of Business. I spend the past summer interning with Westpac Bank in Sydney, Australia.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

My project gave me a broader understanding of both living in a foreign country as well as working in a large corporate setting. Prior to this trip, I had never traveled to another country for an extended period of time. While Australia and the United States share many similarities, I still had to adjust to certain social and professional differences. I was no longer the “majority”, and therefore I had to assimilate to Australian norms. Additionally, by working in a corporate setting, this project gave me an idea of what my work life would be after college. My only prior work experience was working at a small local credit union in my hometown. This trip allowed me to realize that working for a small company that employs less than 100 employees is a completely different experience than working for a large conglomerate that employs 30,000+.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

My overall transformation began right when I entered the country. I hailed a taxi from the Sydney airport to my apartment and ended up having a great conversation with the taxi driver. At first, I thought I just got lucky with a very friendly driver. I later realized that overall, Australians tend to be more personal, even when it comes to business. For example, business meetings at Westpac always started off with everyone talking about their weekends or what they were doing after work. It would have been rude to launch into the business matter right away. This is much different in the United States, where many times everyone wants to get the meeting over with as soon as possible.

My interactions with native college students also gave me a better perspective on Australian culture. I learned that students are encouraged to take gap semesters during college in order to take on long-term internships. In certain majors, such as business, certain colleges actually require you to have a certain amount of work hours before you can graduate. This focus was much more so on practical application than theory. I thought this was much better than the United States. It made me realize how differently students are treated across the world.

Finally, my time at Westpac made me realize how political it was to work at a large company. Just learning about the promotion cycles made me realize that sometimes it is the more “popular” employee that is promoted rather than the one who worked the hardest. It also made me realize how you had to plan ahead in order to get work done. Sometimes it would take several weeks for reports to be processed because it had to be approved by several different departments. These are things that you wouldn’t know from just taking business classes.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

This project allowed me to realize that business is completely globalized. I can’t just assume that during my career, I will only be interacting with other Americans. This project allowed me to gain a better perspective on how culture affects business. When establishing foreign relationships, I now know I need to adjust my actions based on whom I am interacting with. This could be in regards to certain business processes, type of humor, or even just mannerisms.