Accounting student Jessica Hoffman received the opportunity this summer to study abroad in not just one, but two different countries – Germany and Brazil. Her adventures and stories were incredible – certainly once-in-a-lifetime chances! I was especially interested to hear how Jessica came across both of these amazing opportunities, which she was more than happy to share with me. I left the interview feeling inspired to fly overseas myself! Below are some of her stories and memories, as well as words of advice for future SBA students hoping to study or intern abroad.
What initially attracted you to the PSU School of Business Administration accounting program?
The biggest asset that I think that we have is the city of Portland. To me, the city is so fantastic and such a draw that it’s a natural fit that I would want to stay here, not just to go to school but to work. And the partnership that the SBA has with the working, professional community is one that I think is very unique. To me, the hugest draw is that we can live, work, and go to school – and that this is one community.
Tell me about the internship that you did this summer.
I participated in the Deloitte Global Internship Program this summer, which means that once you go through recruiting for a [Deloitte] internship, you potentially have an opportunity to apply to be considered for the global program. June was when my internship in Portland started and then four weeks later I flew to São Paulo and worked the second half of my internship in the Brazil office. The internships are a lot of fun! They do a lot to really introduce you to the company culture, to help you network and meet people. While I was in Brazil, I was fairly comfortable with the corporate environment at that point and it was really a matter of being able to navigate an entirely new team with language barriers, a totally different industry specialty and different government regulations.
How did you overcome the language and cultural barriers?
The first week was the hardest for sure. I would always try to sit with different people on my team at lunch and ask them about their families and growing up and what their school was like. What has their experience been? And really try to learn from that and stay smiling, stay approachable, stay open. Laugh a lot! By the end of the second week, it was really easygoing and we had all become fast friends.
I felt like I was learning every second of every day. And even the uncomfortable times, it was really was a perfect opportunity to grow and to lean into the discomfort, and figure out how to take an awkward moment and embrace it.
How do you think that the PSU School of Business Administration program really prepared you for studying or working abroad?
We have a huge international student population here and we’re a really diverse campus. There’s no way that you’ve gone through business classes without working on an international team, even if you didn’t necessarily realize it. It’s really important, I think, to practice empathy and be open and assume best intentions. Working in international teams for SBA classes really gives you opportunities to practice those skills.
Tell me about your study abroad experience in Germany.
I participated in the SBA Innovation for Sustainability trip and it was a two week intensive in Germany. There were 21 students in the program; six from PSU, eight from a university that has multiple campuses in Mexico, and then seven from the university partner in Germany. But many of the German students were from other countries as well. We were really a diverse team. I tried to use some of the same approaches that I used from being in Brazil towards meeting everyone there, learning about their country and their culture. This was a great opportunity for me to understand the real impact you can have when you truly listen to someone, when you ask a question and are totally open to the answer.
What does fearless mean to you?
I think fearless is the only way to live. The best thing that we can do for ourselves is ask why we’re afraid and start there. And then think about where that fear really comes from. I think that so much of the fear is just not knowing. So if we care instead about the process and extracting value from the process, then the outcome and the variables that are outside of our control – we can just make peace with that.
If you put everything you have into making yourself better every day and you live that way – fearlessly – the outcome will be successful. But it doesn’t have to be to one specific goal. It’s about the process. If we’re fearless in our commitment to our own self-betterment and self improvement, and our care for others, then the outcome will always be successful.
After the interview ended, I realized how much some of Jessica’s stories related to my own. Having worked abroad in Spain after high school, I knew how isolating the first week could be. I could also understand how important it was to reach out to others and truly comprehend what their lives are like, what’s important to them, and what they care about. When studying or working abroad, empathy is one of the best tools that we can utilize. We need to be able to relate to others – especially those who are completely different from ourselves. It’s such an exhilarating feeling, though, to be able to relate to and empathize with people from diverse backgrounds. Studying or working abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would suggest to anyone who has the ability!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Innovation for Sustainability program or other study abroad programs that the School of Business Administration has to offer, just click the following link: http://www.pdx.edu/sba/study-abroad-0
~Mckenzie Miller ’15 Fearless Business Student