BSc International Management student, Alice Wenner, shares her life-changing experience of completing her year abroad in Los Angeles, developing her personal brand and completing two very different internships, with a Film Investment company and a Global Hedge Fund.
It has now been a few weeks since I packed up my belongings, left the United States and made my way back to the UK. I’m not going to lie, it was certainly not an easy task saying farewell to the life I created for myself in Los Angeles, nor did I enjoy having to leave the sunshine and palm trees behind. However, all good things come to an end and that’s exactly what this past year has been: an amazingly good experience. It really wasn’t until I sat down to write this, that I truly started to understand the countless lessons I’ve learned while being on my year abroad and how this experience has completely transformed my outlook on my career and, most importantly, myself. I am excited to share my experience with you and I hope it might inspire some people out there to consider doing a year abroad as well.
Before I dive in, a little bit about me: my name is Alice, I am an incoming final-year student studying towards a BSc in International Management at WBS, and I’m originally from Sweden. I spent my year abroad interning with a Film Investment company as well as a Global Hedge Fund headquartered in Los Angeles - two distinct experiences but both with their own unique value. Instead of going into detail about what my everyday tasks were and what my cover letter included, I want this piece to be focused on why I think doing a work placement abroad is an incredible opportunity and also give you a few tips on how to make the most of the experience.
When I applied to universities, I genuinely did not have the slightest idea of what kind of career I wanted to pursue. What I did know, however, was that I wanted a course that would allow me to explore different career paths by being able to combine my academics with actual real-life work experience. The International Management course at WBS, therefore, felt like a good fit: a university with an indisputable reputation and the opportunity to spend a year working abroad. Looking back, I can confidently say it was the best decision I could’ve made for myself.
Spending a year working in a different country is invaluable for three reasons: it allows you to gain a competitive advantage by incorporating real work experience during your degree, widening your international network as you build new relationships, and develop advantageous skills and knowledge. Since last October, I’ve been able to add two internships to my resume, work and interact with some of America’s top professionals within the film and finance industry as well as gain a far-ranging skillset and competences that I’ll be able to utilise throughout the rest of my career. However, the undeniably greatest gift of this year was the personal development I got to experience every single day. My time in the United States was truly life-changing and I’m going to do my best to explain why.
First of all, why America? I’ve had a strong desire to experience the United States for a long time as something more than just a tourist, in fact, I knew even before my first day at WBS that it was where I wanted to spend my third year. It’s a country of innovation and a leader in the financial industry, which is why I knew it would offer me one of the best learning experiences. There is certainly no pressure or need to have your ideal destination set that early on, however, in hindsight, I do believe that having a clear idea to work towards was something that helped me a lot during the planning process. The approach to internships can be very different depending on where in the world you are. By narrowing down the playing field early, I was able to spend more time on understanding the American approach and what would be required for me to successfully secure an internship in that specific region. What was distinctive about the United States in my opinion, was the way I had to significantly boost my personal brand in order to stand out from the crowd. So, a good piece of advice I’d give is that whenever highlighting your relevant achievements, skills or experiences, make sure to add a few more layers of confidence and pride. Don’t assume your work will speak for itself, make some extra noise about the things you’re proud of and actively promote yourself.
When it comes to the actual work experiences, my internships gave me the opportunity to work on countless different projects, perform a variety of tasks and develop invaluable skills every step of the way. I’ve done everything from analysing scripts for potential film investments and researching complex tax codes to creating marketing materials and organising a conference for 250 clients. However, even though I’m incredibly grateful for being assigned with such a wide range of responsibilities and gaining an immeasurable amount of new knowledge, the most fulfilling aspect about these past months has been the personal growth I’ve experienced every single day. I had a very clear goal of what I wanted to achieve through this year: gain confidence in myself as a young professional. I know it probably comes across as a very vague and, in many ways, broad statement, but having that goal set in my mind was probably the best thing I could’ve done. There is so much uncertainty around what a year like this will entail and it’s impossible to know before-hand what it will be like, which is exciting but also really, really scary.
Moving across the world, with no one to rely on or trust but myself was terrifying – but for me, it was exactly what I knew I needed in order to grow that confidence. When I struggled at work, when I didn’t understand something or when I was stressed because of a pressing deadline, I had no other choice but to find a way to move forward. I didn’t have the safety net of university, family or friends to fall back on anymore, which forced me to deal with every challenge and obstacle completely on my own. It definitely wasn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I’ve realised that’s the whole point – it’s usually when we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations we tend to grow the most. By setting that initial goal I always had direction and it made every day turn into an opportunity to just do something that would get me closer to achieving it. That goal doesn’t have to be about confidence, it can be anything from improving technical knowledge or soft skills to language proficiency. Whatever it might be, I do genuinely believe that taking the time to truly figure out what you would like to achieve is one of the key pieces that will allow your year abroad to become a life-long investment for your career.
I can honestly say that I’ve learned more about myself during this past year than ever before in my life. If you have the chance to spend a year of your degree abroad, whether it’s to work or to study, take it. I can’t stress enough how unforgettable my experience has been and how it’s helped me advance my career. For anyone that would want to know more about my internships or my time in the U.S. – I’ll be back on campus in October and I’d be happy to chat over a yummy coffee (and brownie) at Curiousitea.
Every WBS Undergraduate* has the opportunity to study abroad during their studies, if you would like to find out more about our courses on offer, download our Undergraduate brochure.
*Joint degree’s may differ, please refer to the partner department for study abroad information.