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Summer 2013: Gretchen Hughes: Forcome Ltd. Shanghai


Summer 2013: Gretchen Hughes: Fortcome Ltd. Shanghai


This past summer from May - July 2013, Gretchen Hughes pursued the opportunity of a lifetime, completing an internship in Shanghai, China through the CSB/SJU Center for Global Education's Summer Global Internship Program. Gretchen discovered this global internship opportunity after talking with Global Business Leadership Professor, Paul Marsnik. Although she was initially interested in an internship in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Dr. Marsnik encouraged her to pursue an internship in China, since it would be an ideal place to continue to explore the Chinese culture.

During her internship, Gretchen's limits were pushed further than she would have ever imagined. "I gave weekly culture lessons from the American perspective including: business emails, holidays, sports, dining etiquette, and public speaking." She was also able to design an "American style" kitchen and acted as spokeswoman for the company's KingSlicer product line. Gretchen's responsibilities also included market research on various kinds of outdoor equipment, proofreading the company's product descriptions online, and providing welcome materials (and even birthday cards) for visiting buyers.

Throughout her summer internship journey, there were numerous beneficial experiences. However, Gretchen says, "The most beneficial aspect of my internship was learning more about a real-world office setting, while also being able to observe cultural and communication differences. I was the only foreigner in my office and there were times where it was very difficult to understand my co-workers (or vice versa). I believe I have a lot left to learn when it comes to understanding others' perspectives and perceptions, and my internship provided me with an opportunity to begin that journey." As an intern, Gretchen used many skills she learned at CSB/SJU, such as networking and relationship building. She explained that the internship also provided her with fundamental skills that will help her in the future, such as self-motivation, pushing yourself, planning ahead, multi-tasking and seeking cultural understanding.

One of the most memorable moments during the summer internship was at her first company dinner. According to Gretchen, it is Chinese custom to toast to each guest at the table. When it was her turn to be toasted, her boss gave this advice: "At the end of your time with Forcome, I want you to be able to describe to me all the mistakes you made," he said, "I have little interest in what you do right, because you will learn very little from those tasks. [...] I hope by the end of your time in China, that you will be able to say you learned from many mistakes, and you will not have to make them again."

When asked about her choice to complete a global internship experience, Gretchen describes it as the best decision of her life. In addition to encouraging other students to pursue global internship opportunities, Gretchen also advises future interns to "Go into your internships with an extremely open mind. [...] Try to make the most out of each moment you have. Whether you're tired,  whether you're a little bored, or whether you're excited for your plans next weekend, you never know what you'll discover or be able to look back on and appreciate."