Born in the United States to immigrant parents, I have consistently sought out international experience that fostered my desire to learn. During my spring semester of junior year at the Kelley School of Business, I studied abroad in São Paulo while also working part-time as an intern at a small firm, ba}Stockler.
These are my three takeaways from my international business experience:
Get comfortable with asking questions.
At ba}Stockler, everyone spoke Portuguese. There was a steep learning curve for my business vocabulary and comprehension during meetings. I needed to understand the firm I was working for and how they conducted business. So for every project, brainstorming session or meeting I attended I observed and kept detailed notes on what I didn’t understand. And then I asked my questions when it was appropriate. If I had pretended I understood everything, I wouldn’t have added much value or learned anything.
Focus on empathy.
It’s easy to become frustrated and to discredit people when they don’t do things the way you do them. Latin American business has stark differences from that in the United States*. I would catch myself thinking, “Why is this so inefficient? They could be doing X, Y, Z, but they don’t!” This was counterproductive to finding solutions. Instead, I started to focus on understanding why the company operated the way it did. Influences from management and Brazilian culture often affected processes.
Always work harder than you think you should.
When I tell people I study at Kelley sometimes I receive praise or acknowledgment of the difficulty of my degree and how qualified I must be. Part of being a Kelley is staying humble and getting the hard work done because that’s how you succeed. When joining any new workplace, set your own standards and reflect before, during and after each project on what you can do to add value to your company. Don’t let a perception of lowered work ethic influence your performance. Nothing in life worth having is simply handed to you.
My study abroad and international work experience was life-changing. I graduate in May and in June I will be joining the next class of the Orr Fellowship at a startup called Bolstra. If my company is looking for someone to send abroad, I’ll be the first one to raise my hand.
If you are considering having an unconventional study abroad or work experience, do it. No one can own your experience except you, and you’re in control of what you make of it. If you have any questions about study abroad in Latin America, or how to perform a self-directed career search, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Undergraduate Career Services.
*If you want to learn more about the differences/work styles of different countries in comparison to your own, check out the GlobeSmart tool. If you have an IU email you should have access to register.
Rebecca Garcia is senior at the Kelley School of Business majoring in marketing & international business with a minor in Portuguese.