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Interning Abroad: New Country, New Confidence

By in Careers, CareerUp, Intern, Intern Stories, Interning Abroad

Where are They Now Wednesdays: Alexandra Gadbois

I recently had the chance to sit down with Alexandra Gadbois, an accounting alumni of the University of Arkansas and CareerUp Alumnus from the summer of 2016. Through some modern-day internet creeping, I discovered that having only just graduated this year, Alexandra has already secured a professional role in her field.

This is the dream.

After spending four years dedicating time and money to a degree, who can say that they want anything but the chance to use that degree! I wanted to know how Alexandra made that a reality. What did she do to ensure she wound up where she wanted to be and how big of a role did her time as an intern abroad play in making her job as an Audit Associate at PriceKubecka possible? She was nice enough to share.

 

Originally, Alexandra had intended to use her internship abroad to gain practical skills and see a new part of the world, but the experience became bigger than that. Throughout our conversation, she generously provided me with unfiltered stories and details of a personal journey of self-improvement. Over the course of her two month internship abroad, she found herself both professionally and personally challenged in ways that would change her sense of self forever.

 

Sometimes going overseas, away from family and the familiar, can seem like an overwhelming endeavor to a new world traveler. It was no surprise to me that Alexandra felt some travel anxiety, but it was inspiring to see how her conviction to challenge herself pushed her through. When I asked her to describe her personality, she painted a picture of someone ready to take on the world and make things happen:

 

CareerUp alumnus Alexandra Gadbois

I’m pretty ambitious. I’m very driven and Type-A: a person big into agendas and planning.  But my approach to professional success is: if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. I was really nervous when I left [the USA] because I had never been alone to a foreign country before, so it was a big leap. I don’t really know how I did that.

 

Alexandra received a finance internship position with a technology company in Singapore that specializes in custom applications and software for iOS, Android, and other major platforms. As I dove into questions about her internship experience, I learned that her time overseas was fun, educational, and culturally informative.

 

I had so much fun working there. The other interns were really fun and I enjoyed bonding with them- I actually enjoyed work. I got to see how other parts of the world work and learned how to present myself when talking to people- how to interact with people from around the world. You see how other people live and that is so important, to not be stuck in your own world. Being in a new culture gave me professional confidence I never felt I had.

As we drifted through questions on her industry, accomplishments, and the role of an intern abroad, we always found the conversation returning to the same theme: confidence. Speaking with Alexandra, I don’t think anyone would believe that the well spoken individual before them ever suffered from low confidence. Quite the contrary- her positive attitude and optimistic outlook come across as foundational beliefs in a self-assured woman. Yet, she informs me that this is not the impression I may have gotten only a few years earlier.

 

I had an issue with confidence before this, I was not confident at all. This trip really helped with that. Before, I was still motivated and driven, but I was not confident. When someone would say something mean to me, that would kill me. So, when I got into the internship, I learned that you can’t let things affect you and that really helped; It helps in a roundabout way. I had a long talk with my manager and he told me that confidence is the biggest thing. I think he probably taught me the most, he was definitely the most knowledgeable person there. He told me, if you are not showing that you are confident no one is going to respect you and want you to do their finance or accounting. So, I felt like that is what my trip gave me. The people on the trip were so amazing and I have kept up with so many of them. They were so supportive and helped my confidence grow. I think it was the people in the end that made [my confidence] happen because they were awesome.

 

The other aspect of Alexandra’s professional experience I was extremely interested in was her take on what someone interested in accounting should be focusing on. There is a lot of advice out there on how to give yourself the best chance at the career you want: Hearing advice from someone who has successfully secured a job and broken into the industry seems to be advice worth listening to.

 

 

When I got my internship, all they really did was look at my GPA and then do the interview. So, I think your GPA is super important. I think people downplay it too much and say extracurriculars are more important. And they are important, I don’t want to downplay that. I still did sorority and track, but I think GPA is more important. And just being able to talk to people and present yourself is so big. If you can’t communicate with people, you aren’t going to get the job. Personality is a huge part of it.

 

As a final note from Alexandra, I wanted to know how her internship abroad actually came into play back home in the USA, where internships and jobs are notoriously difficult to secure. Did her internship win her interviews, did it impress anyone at those companies, and does she feel to this day that the investment was worth it?

 

I found a job almost immediately after I graduated… I know that [the interviewers] looked at my resume, and they commented on [the internship abroad] for sure and asked questions on it and thought it was really cool. And I think if I were to move to any other firm later on, like a Big Four, I think they would be even more impressed by that. Because these firms are so competitive, that is what they look for to use to differentiate- the international experience. The career centre at my University kept trying to have me put my extra-curricular experience over my internship and I refused, I thought, No, why would I do that? This is what they want to see.

“My investment was 100% worth it.”

Interning abroad is the most important thing that you can do in your four years of college. The internship abroad experience had so much structure. You were able to go to work and learn, but also go and experience the culture. One week, we went off to Bali for the weekend and then came back for work on Monday. You can’t do that with school. It was a great experience. I am so glad I did it.

 

Stay Tuned:  Our Next Where Are They Now Wednesday Interview is only a couple weeks away…