At the USC Marshall School of Business, even freshmen 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 have the chance to hone their business acumen and sharpen their cultural understanding and interpersonal skills as they cope with life in a different country and corporate environments.
Alina Tang, a student participating in USC Marshall’s Global Leadership Program (GLP), took part in an eight-week internship in Shanghai this summer. She was one of 14 GLP students to intern in China.
Tang previously had traveled to Shanghai and Beijing during a weeklong trip in the spring as part of the 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 comfort zone — and gained 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. “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.
Tang enthusiastically urged her classmates to take advantage of the many overseas internships USC Marshall offers through programs like LINC (Learning and International Commerce), which is offered to all freshmen who are not part of GLP.
“The cultural experience is something I value just as much if not more than the exposure to business,” Tang said. “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 spent eight weeks in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the school’s International Summer Internship Program (MISIP). Though she has done previous internships before coming to USC, this was her first international placement.
Haghighi worked at Maneeya Realty Co. Ltd., where she was given the opportunity to learn all aspects of operating the commercial real estate and property management firm’s five-star Renaissance Hotel 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 said 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 the fall semester.
“It wasn’t just learning on the job. I got to live like a local did,” Haghighi said. “It’s going to impact me permanently because I learned so much and was able to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”