by Katie Leimkuehler, GlobaLinks New Media Manager: http://globalinksabroad-blog.org/2014/05/16/globalinks-2014-alum-of-the-year-share-insights-on-interning-abroad/
Katie Sanderson, an engineering major who attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln interned with GlobaLinks in Chile, and now has been selected as the GlobaLinks 2014 Alumna of the Year.
What was it like interning in Chile? Why did you choose Chile?
I was very open to suggestions when selecting my country and
ultimately chose to intern in Chile because of the great company I was
partnered with called COPEC. Many people have a select country in mind
and I think that’s great, but there is so much of the world I haven’t
seen and I know that any location GlobaLinks found a good placement for
me would be a great country to live in for ten weeks! I didn’t know much
about Chile besides the fact it’s in the South America before my
internship so the weeks prior was full of researching the best tourist
spots and culture information. I had no idea there were so many awesome
things in Santiago, let alone the rest of the country! Whilst interning
in Chile I was always busy whether I was working, hanging out with some
of my Chilean friends, or sightseeing with other interns. It was a great
What was the best part of interning in a foreign country?
I loved my internship and my coworkers, but seeing Patagonia was simply
amazing. Even the flight to Patagonia was full of beautiful views.
Traveling on the weekends and even around the city during the week was a
great use of my time. During my first few weeks I didn’t do much
traveling outside of Santiago, but I started taking weekend trips to
places like Isla Negra on the coast or Valle de Elqui, which is near the
Atacama Desert. I also liked that the other interns were enthusiastic
about traveling as well; we were a great group!
Describe your engineering internship. What were some of your favorite parts of it? What were some challenges?
The biggest challenge of my internship was the language barrier;
sometimes it prevented clear communication. However, the biggest
challenge was also a major part of my learning. My coworkers were taking
English classes for the duration of my internship. I would also attend,
but learn Spanish. This was a nice way to spend time with my coworkers
and learn about their families. I ended up spending a lot of time
outside of work with my boss’s family, which was amazing. I really liked being able to apply what I had learned in the
classroom. I was expected to use Excel to correlate results of products I
analyzed, which posed another challenge as this Excel was in Spanish!
Luckily all the tests I performed had an English operating procedure,
which made learning them a lot easier. The work environment at COPEC was
great, we were a team working together. They always answered my
questions regardless of how silly they were to make sure it was more
than just a job, it was an internship.
What skills did you learn in your internship?
Chemical engineers relay on data to make decisions for plants and
processes. A major part of my internship was data analysis where I took
data from tests I performed and worked on it in Excel. Besides Excel
work, I learned many different tests to analyze petroleum products.
Learning the theory and application of chemical engineering to the tests
were interesting, but performing the tests was even more fun.
How do you think your international internship prepared you for your career?
Besides helping me gain skills necessary for my future career, my
international internship also improved my marketability. Few peers have
international experience and possible employers are always impressed to
hear about my internship abroad. I think my internship contributed to my
current position in a pharmaceutical laboratory as well as my
internship this summer.
What advice would you give students thinking about interning abroad?
I really liked how the intern
group in Chile banded together to travel. Traveling is more fun with a
buddy and we were each others buddies! During your orientation week you
should find people who want to travel the places you want to travel so
you can go together. For example, one intern in Chile wanted to go to
the Valle de Elqui. I had never heard of this, but decided to go with
him and one of the other interns. It ended being an amazing trip in the
desert. I hope I get to see a night sky like that again someday! I was
very keen on going to Patagonia and all five interns ended up taking a
flight with me to explore the mountains. Prior to going abroad, try to get an idea of what sightseeing you can
do. Whether it is sightseeing in the same city or sightseeing across
the country, look up the possibilities. Finally, make sure you have Skype! I was very homesick the first week
I left home and missed my family a lot. Being able to Skype helped me a
lot that week as well whenever I wanted to talk to my family.
Why do you think living and traveling to new countries is an important aspect of your personal education?
For academics in chemical engineering, studying abroad is difficult,
which is why I opted for an internship. However, beyond academics I
think it is important for young people to experience the world. When you
are young you don’t have things to hold you somewhere such as a
mortgage or family. I didn’t even have a car when I went to Chile!
Although you have less money when you’re young, I think traveling should
be a priority to experience and educate yourself on foreign cultures.
Where do you hope to travel to next?
I simply love England. I have been there twice, one of them only a
few months after leaving Chile, and I hope to be back there a third time
soon. It is a great country and although I am not a fan of big cities, I
love London. Apart from there, the other countries on my bucket list
include Holland, my former housemate from Chile lives there, and Chile. I
loved Chile and I hope to be back to visit everyone I spent time with
there, hopefully with my mom. My sister will be interning in Australia
with GlobaLinks over the summer and it would be pretty awesome to be
able to visit her!
What’s in store for you next?
This summer I am staying stateside to intern in the nitrogen-based
fertilizer industry. It is a major step in my future career as process
engineering is what most chemical engineers chose to work in. I will
have a major decision to make in the coming years as I decide whether to
continue working the pharmaceutical industry or go onto process
engineering. Whatever I do, I know that I will always remember my ten
weeks working at COPEC!