Senior Spends Summer Abroad through International Business Internship
Cole Pearson (Agribusiness Management; Delphi, IN) is no stranger to taking on leadership roles or stepping out of the ordinary for career opportunities. This summer, Cole took another step further by choosing an internship that would take abroad while gaining professional experience. Encouraged by a mentor, Cole decided to reach out to a firm that schedules international business internships.
"They sent my resume on to agriculture businesses and two contacted me to tell me about their company. I felt pulled to this one in Uzbekistan for multiple reasons. First, it aligned with my interests in personal-professional development, entrepreneurship, and connecting with people. Second, when else will I have the freedom like I do now to travel, live in a foreign country and meet people who are so different."
In order to be selected, Cole went through a non-traditional interview process. The interview process itself is designed to identify if the arrangement is a mutual fit. "There was not a formal process or much training before I left. I was signing up for a couple expenses like airline tickets and rent on an apartment, so we had to make sure I was serious about coming before we went through all of the details."
While Coles' official title is Agribusiness Intern, there has been a significant shift in what he would be doing in his internship from what he expected. "Instead of forming a group of students at the agriculture university, I was working on projects with agribusinesses, and meeting students in 1-on-1 settings for meals, or informal tours of the city."
Cole has spent much of his position in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He has also worked in the Jizzakh region for three weeks along with taking shorter trips to the Samarkland and Bekabod region. The internship itself has been shaped by the connections he has made and the people he has met. "Things are constantly changing, so I try to say "Yes" to any learning opportunity I am offered. We set four goals at the beginning of the experience of what we hope to accomplish, and the experiences have been working to reach those goals."
Among the goals he has set out to reach before his internship concludes, Cole shares his firsthand experience in reaching them, "I was introduced to an American man who invited me to come to work on a drip irrigation system. The next week I took a train out to meet him and see the orchard where they were installing new equipment."
Throughout his time as an intern, there have been many opportunities for cultural learning experiences. "The values we (Americans) have are different from the values in another culture. To list a few: How we make group decisions, how we think about time and making plans, how we care for elderly people, the role of women in workplaces, etc. All of these have differences. In some situations, I respect their ways more than the way Americans do things."
As the world continues to recover from the global pandemic, Cole has felt the reverberations through his time as an intern. It has kept him from meeting as many students and has limited the momentum to start a student organization centered around agriculture and business. While this would be a big burden for some, Cole is choosing to make the experience a positive one despite the limitations. "I have been able to meet some students, learn about the culture, and have the freedom to live and work independently."
Accepting an internship abroad is a big decision, but it is one that comes with second to none experience and cultural immersion. Cole explains, "Cultural acceptance only comes from being put in situations where you learn about cultures. Only education, without practice does not bring about acceptance. Meeting people in their environment, their homes, or their favorite restaurants shows that you are willing to embrace their culture. Through this experience I have grown in relationship building and making connections."
When asked to describe something he will remember many years down the road, Cole was eager to explain, "There is a ton I will remember, but most of all: people here are incredibly giving and hospitable! They are trying to make their way and improve their lives."