You’re in a new place. You don’t speak the language or understand the culture and you can’t recognize anything on the menu.This was the reality for Kate Roth during the summer of 2012, when she participated in a business internship in Hangzhou China.
In January 2012, Roth, a graduate of the Oregon State University Cascades business program, was first approached about the possibility of completing an internship at The Dragon Hotel in China.
“It was exciting to be offered this opportunity,” Roth said. “I didn’t have any idea what this experience would be like, but I didn’t want to miss it.”
In the past, OSU-Cascades has partnered with IE3, a global internship agency, to offer international internships for students. This specific internship was opened up through a unique connection OSU-Cascades professor, Sandy Chen, had with managers at The Dragon Hotel. At the time, the hotel managers were seeking to invite students to come help staff learn about the Western culture.
These internships are created to give students the opportunity to gain valuable skills that they can later apply in their careers, said Sandy Chen, assistant professor in hospitality management at OSU-Cascades.
“To get a job in business today, graduates need experience in their field,” Chen said. “This internship is a great way to introduce students to what the business field is like.”
The students chosen for this internship were picked based on professor recommendations as well as personality, flexibility, and a mindfulness of cultural differences, according to Chen.
“The Chinese culture is almost completely opposite from here,” Chen said. “We picked students based on how well we perceive they will adapt in this environment.”
Chen worked with both of the students who were chosen to participate in this internship.
“The students we sent didn’t have any previous experience,” Chen said. “We talked with them a little about what to expect, but really they were thrown into a whole different culture.”
One of Roth’s first assignments after arriving in China was to teach the English language to 250 of the hotel staff where she lived and worked during this three month long internship.
“At first, I was saying everything through a translator because I didn’t know the language,” Roth said. “It was a little intimidating because I didn’t know that this was to be a part of my experience, I had to just jump in feet first and feel it out.”
In China, Roth was also faced with a different menu than she was used to at home.
“We were served food that was completely whole, fish were served whole with their skin, gills and eyes,” Roth said. “Right before we came back to the U.S., I finally even got brave enough to eat a scorpion in Beijing.”
While in China, Roth worked closely with internship program leaders to learn about the cultural and political past of the country. “One of these cultural changes coming to China is how the country views women,” Roth said.
“There is a large feminist movement that has been in the making for 20 years,” Roth said. “It was neat to be able to be on the front lines of seeing something like this that will ultimately change this country in a positive way.”
Roth hopes to use the leadership and business skills she gained through this internship to attend law school in fall 2013.
“Business was a great stepping stone to this goal,” Roth said. “Ultimately though, business is not my greatest passion, and this internship has basically solidified the next step.”
Through all these experiences, Roth said the most important thing she learned was humility.
“I went over with these huge expectations on what I could and would do, but you can’t go to a foreign country and expect these to be met,” Roth said. “I learned to expect the unexpected and be okay with it, and to just let go and enjoy the moment.”