Discovering new cultures abroad

By Morganne Ramsey

On her way to her summer job in France, Solange Etessami ’13 was stopped at immigration in Amsterdam. She said the customs agent found it odd that a 16-year-old was traveling alone to an obscure town in southwest France and delayed her before eventually letting her into the country.

For the end of July and most of August, Etessami worked at the Manoir d’Hautegente in Coly, France. Her responsibilities included secretarial duties, working in the restaurant and watching the restaurant owners’ children.

“I was kind of a full-time nanny,” Etessami said.

Etessami first got the idea to work at the hotel from her father, who had stayed there a year earlier. He thought it would give her a chance to improve her French. Etessami had only taken French for a year before going to Coly.

“I definitely learned a lot of vocab,” she said. “It improves conversational skills.”

Oscar Beer ’12 worked for Meyle HD, a German company that produces spare automobile parts. The job enabled him to spend a month in Shanghai.

Beer is fluent in German, the language spoken within the company, so communication was not an obstacle.

“I just wanted the experience and to go to China,” he said. “It was sort of a win-win.”

Vivien Mao ’12 also interned in Shanghai, working in public relations for two months. She corrected her co-workers’ English and translated Chinese into English for their European clients.

This was Mao’s second time interning abroad.

“As our world is becoming more globalized, having experience in foreign countries means having a better understanding of working in an unfamiliar territory, as well as forcing a person to overcome the potential language barrier,” she said.

Mao decided to intern in China because she wanted to improve her Chinese skills, she said. She said that during her time there, her grasp of the language improved.

“It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that one of my crowning achievements was being able to have a 20 minute conversation with a cab driver where he couldn’t tell I was American,” she said.

Elaine Tang ’12 also had a chance to develop her Chinese, spending six weeks in Beijing working for a studio that specializes in animation and special effects. The company she worked at, Xing Xing, was involved in the films “Madagascar,” “Veggie Tales” and “Twilight.”

“I loved that I was able to not only experience China and its culture, but also got real work experience,” she said.