University of Southern California

Summer Internships: More than a Business Education
Students Gain Invaluable Cultural Understanding as they Hone Professional Skills
August 19, 2013 • by News at Marshall

At Marshall, even freshman are encouraged to study overseas as part of the school’s mission to expose students to critical international perspectives and opportunities through cross-culture collaboration. Through summer internships in countries such as China, Thailand and Taiwan, students not only have the chance to hone their business acumen, but also their cultural understanding and interpersonal skills as they navigate life in a different country and corporate environments.

Alina Tang '16, a student participating in Marshall’s Global Leadership Program, offered to the most academically talented incoming freshmen, took part in an eight-week internship in Shanghai this summer. She was one of 14 GLP students to intern in China, in cities including Shanghai, Beijing and Taiwan. (This year, internships were expanded to Taipei and Taiyuan, Taiwan.)

Tang had gone to Shanghai and Beijing during a weeklong trip in the spring as part of the GLP program. During her summer internship, she worked in marketing for Multipure, which aims to introduce U.S.- made drinking water filters to China and other Asian markets.

Tang, who speaks some Mandarin, had to go out into the field and conduct market research—pushing past her own comfort zone—and gaining valuable skills in the process.

"It was hard at first because I’m someone who doesn’t like taking the first step in talking to people, especially strangers," said Tang, describing her initial efforts to engage consumers in the fast-paced city. “I was kind of tentative and soft-spoken so a lot of people would not want to take the survey or stop. But over time I became more confident. I spoke louder—made eye-contact and all that—and it really helped me not only get the information that I wanted, but also become more confident in my own voice and not afraid to approach people anymore.

"It sharpened my communication skills, my networking skills, and my leadership skills. I also got a good idea of what working with different people in a real functioning company was like," she said.

She enthusiastically urged her classmates to take advantage of the myriad overseas internships Marshall offers through programs like LINC (Learning and International Commerce), which is offered to all freshman who are not part of GLP.

"The cultural experience is something I value just as much if not more than the exposure to business," said Tang. "The opportunity to live abroad for at least a month is so valuable because you really get to know the place in a way that’s deeper than the tourist level."

Ava Haghighi '14 spent eight weeks in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the Marshall International Summer Internship Program (MISIP). Though she has done previous internships before coming to Marshall, this was her first international placement.

Haghighi worked at Maneeya Realty Co. Ltd, led by Marshall alumnus Tim Tinasaki Bhanubandh. She was given the opportunity to learn all aspects of operating the commercial real estate and property management firm’s five-star Renaissance Hotel—from housekeeping to sales and marketing—in order to analyze what could be done to increase profits and lower costs. A native of Iran who lived in Turkey for a year before immigrating to the United States, Haghighi says her time in Bangkok was a life-changing experience.

"This was a magical experience. It was one of those things that I would never be able to do on my own, but Marshall provided it for me and I just feel so privileged to have been able to do it this summer," said Haghighi, who will be studying in Milan at Bocconi University during her fall semester.

"It wasn’t just learning on the job. I was really able to live the internship from being there and becoming friends with the people I worked with and basically living among them and seeing them every day. I got to live like a local did," said Haghighi. "It’s going to impact me permanently because I learned so much and was able to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.