Intern Name: Andrew Breyer
Major(s): Communication and Philosophy
Intern Title/ Name of Organization: Analyst at Home Essentials in Central Hong Kong, China
How did you find out about the internship and what was the application process like?
I found out about the internship through an e-mail sent out last February. I was looking for summer opportunities at the time but never considered international employment. I replied to the e-mail and set up a time to meet with one of the coordinators and from there, I decided to devote the next two weeks to gathering application info. From there, I interviewed with both the Global Education office and then again with two site coordinators in Hong Kong. In March, I received an offer from Home Essentials, HK, which is one of the most popular furniture retail/rental multi-nationals in the world.
What were some of the internship highlights?
While everyday brought new challenges and opportunities, a general highlight was being able to start from scratch in opening a brand new storefront for Home Essentials in the middle of Central, Hong Kong, in a district that boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world. I arrived and the store was barren - wires hanging out of the walls, a cold concrete floor, and dim lighting. I influenced a total transformation of the space into the sort of place Hong Kong residents would want to do business. During construction, I conducted a market analysis comparing our product categories to competitors and when the store was ready, I helped arrange strategic displays of our furniture (which was arriving from all corners of the globe daily).
What was a typical day like? What were some of your major responsibilities?
A typical day began at 9 PM when I would arrive to my desk to a stack of 20 directives. Many of these would be filing invoices for rental customers and doing general office errands around Hong Kong. Throughout the day I would also work as a sales associate in the showroom. This was interesting as I would often meet people from all of the world every day. It would not be rare to meet someone from Brazil, Russia, Japan, the U.S., and Norway over the course of a few hours. This made work very exciting. I would have lunch (usually char siu i.e. bbq pork) around 1PM and work through store close at 8 PM. After 8, I would return home to shower and clean up and often would meet friends out to walk around and explore Hong Kong. I would return around midnight, rest, and repeat and this continued for 3 months.
What were some of the challenges of your internship?
The most challenging aspect of my internship was not having any previous experience working behind the scenes of a large business. I had worked sales before, but nothing that included seeing the business strategy and the thought of what goes into running a successful venture. It was very challenging to keep up with the pace, too. The people of Hong Kong work very hard and this was especially evident with the people I worked with directly. Of the team I was with on a daily basis, Hong Kong, Britain, Texas, the Philippines, and Minnesota were each represented. Overcoming this diversity was certainly a challenge but in the end it is also one of the most influencing factors of my change in perspective from beginning to end.
What did you learn?
There's much to be said here, and it's difficult to give a concise answer. I learned what it's like to be an employee and to be part of a team working towards a common goal. It's one thing to have a group project for an organizational communication course, but for this cohesiveness to rest on the well-being of an entire business enterprise is a completely different ball game. There were very difficult days both personally and as a company, and I learned what it takes to remain confident in stressful and uncertain situations. I also learned the importance of building a network of connections. This was done in the store, but also after hours whether at dinner, a bar, or simply walking around the business district. The bonds made both inside my organization and outside taught me that relationships are paramount to building and maintaining a foundation giving rise to informed decisions.
What advice would you give other students interested in internships?
Be yourself in your application and your interview - if you're trying to be someone you're not in order to get the gig, it's not worth your time. When you're in, make effective time management a top priority. It's not a new or exciting thought but realize that it will go quickly. Make the most of it.
Lastly, be mindful of where you're coming from and why you're there.