Securing an overseas role with the Global Entrepreneurial Internship (GEI) doesn’t just make you the envy of your peers, it also gives you a huge advantage when it comes to jump-starting your own business or future career. That’s because GEI places students with promising startups and innovation hubs in dynamic cities across Asia and the world, where they can learn about running a business first-hand from various entrepreneurs and founders.
We spoke to three students who went on GEI programmes. Joshua Ow Yong, Grace Kwan, and Ryan Ho reveal how their internships abroad with startups have benefited them.
Being involved in many aspects of a startup
Many interns had to wear multiple hats during their internships. “In a startup, manpower is always a problem, hence co-workers are busy with their own share of work, and might not have the time to guide you one step at a time,” says Grace, who interned with BuzzKID, a local ed-tech startup in Shanghai.
For her internship, she had to learn basic accounting, and was involved first-hand at marketing the company via Wechat. She also managed a group of up to 200 tutors which put her conflict management skills to the test. “The internship provided me a with a real life scenario, where I could put all these skills into good use,” she says. “I also believe that interning at a startup is something that we can only do at our age now. Start-ups demands a lot of energy, time and effort.”
Learning what is not taught in classrooms
Internships are a great way to learn outside of the classroom. Ryan, who interned at Phoenixict in Bangkok, had to learn to effectively manage his time and workload, as well as working in a team filled with members from different backgrounds. “These are soft skills that you don’t learn in school,” he says.
For Joshua, who interned at 1 Light Media in Silicon Valley, it was more about the connections: “The most significant thing which I learned during the internship was the importance of relational connections and networking. Talent can only bring one so far, having the right people to bring the right opportunities at the right time makes a world of difference. This was something I wished was taught in classes.”
Grace was surprised by the start-up work environment she was in: “There is little to no hierarchy between the boss and the co-workers. For example, my colleague would just tell the boss directly, that her idea would not be successful. This is something that is rarely seen in Singapore.”
Creating a new network outside Singapore
One of the most important aspects of an overseas internship is creating a network outside of Singapore.
In the vibrant international hub of Bangkok, Ryan attended numerous networking events and met many local entrepreneurs, giving him the networking experience that is vital to any start-up. “These are connections that you might find useful in the future and can’t be found staying put in Singapore.”
For Joshua, his internship taught him the importance of creating strong connections with everyone he meets – something that American culture encourages. “An overseas internship has great potential for establishing strong international networks which I can tap on in the future of my career.”
The all-important world view
Living abroad has not only given them independence – they have a better understanding of the working world beyond Singapore.
“I feel that interning overseas gives you an experience like no other,” says Ryan, “You work and live in a different environment surrounded by a different culture, which will help you develop a wider perspective around the world.”
Living in the USA has given Joshua newfound courage in peer-to-peer interactions. “It has helped reinforce my confidence to be innovative and champion my ideas daringly.”
Grace’s experience in China has opened her eyes to the bold and innovative way the Chinese work. “In China, there is a saying, ‘九九六’ which literally means 996 in English. This means, working from 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week. This shows how driven and motivated they are,” she says, “I think with this new world perspective in mind, it has changed the way I see things.”
Getting a jump start ahead of their peers
The biggest advantage of an overseas internship is the head start they gain above their peers.
As Joshua puts it: “The more I can enlarge my world-view by experiencing international cultures the more informed my choices will be. I believe this foundation will set me above many of my peers who only have local Singaporean experiences.”
For Grace, her experience at the start-up in China not only gave her a whole new experience, she also got a job offer. “I was most surprised when my boss offered me a managerial full-time position in Shanghai. It brought me great joy and confidence to see how much I meant and bring to the company and its growth.”
But things did not stop there; she also got accepted at NTU. “When I went for my university admission interview, the professors were very impressed that I went for an overseas internship. I think that it gives me an edge over my peers and makes my resume more attractive to potential employers or businesses. I also think that I can bring in new ideas and marketing strategies that I have gained in China, into the local industry and play a part in boosting the economy.”
Ryan’s internship experience has changed the way he interacts with people. “I am able to take a step back when dealing with issues and put things into perspective and think of more creative solutions to solve problems.” This experience has given him the inspiration to create a startup with three other founders. Gud Ol’ Days is a social enterprise that creates local products inspired by the life stories of seniors at risk of social isolation in Singapore; 50% of the profits is ploughed back to provide opportunities for these seniors to increase social interaction in the community.
Enjoying life overseas
Of course, an overseas internship is not all about work. Being in China has changed Grace’s view of the people; not only has she made many friends, she was able to integrate into the society. “They are very generous people. In my last week in Shanghai, I didn’t have to pay for all my meals, as my co-workers were taking turns to treat me to meals.”
One of Ryan’s fondest memories involved food. “It was lunchtime and I didn’t know where to go, so my colleagues brought me to the local market next to the office building. It was a completely different world and I felt like a kid again, curiously going up to every single stall to peek at the food. That market would turn out to be the go-to spot for lunch for my entire internship.”
Joshua got to enjoy the great outdoors the USA is famous for. “There were a few days I spent at a campsite with some locals, and the activities I got to do – water sports on a lake, pitching tents, chopping firewood, cooking outdoors – are memories I will never forget.”
Want to be part of this vibrant startup scene and test your entrepreneurial skills?
Think you’re up to the challenge of embarking on an overseas entrepreneurial internship? GEI can get you there. In addition to assistance with travel and living arrangements, they will also partner you up with the right company based on your skills.