If you would have told me in my first year at WSU that by my senior year in 2022 I would not only be double majoring but also interning abroad, I would not have believed it. However, going into my senior year, these two accomplishments were not only my reality, but looking back on my college experience, the two best decisions I made thus far for my personal and professional development.
Due to COVID restrictions and cancellations of all summer study abroad programs at Japanese universities, I had to find other options to fulfill my study abroad requirement for the Carson College of Business’s international business major. Regardless, I was determined to have my international experience in Japan. With the help of my advisors, and through my own research, I found an approved international internship with Apex K.K., a global executive search firm located in Tokyo’s Ebisu community.
The Apex internship supported my human resources major, as it gave me hands-on experience with recruitment and hiring processes. Apex connects their large medical firm clients to potential candidates with executive experience in the pharmaceutical/medical industry. The diversity of the Apex team sets it apart from competitors, as the office is half-English-speaking and half- Japanese-speaking. This allows Apex to recruit people from around the world. For me, this was an incredibly unique opportunity to work with people from other cultures and learn how they conduct business and communicate with their team.
Diverse experiences result in reciprocal value
As the operations intern, my time was divided 50/50 between the back and front offices. Back office work ranged from data entry, creating expense reports, and managing a company event, to more advanced work such as interviewing candidates. As one example, I used the Apollo database platform to pull more than 5,000 names with the company, position title, location, email, and phone number of each candidate. This was one of my most valuable contributions to the company, as the data will remain as a resource for recruiting teams for years to come.
One of my most valuable learning experiences was being the sole proprietor of Apex’s 2022 internship program. Eventually, I was able to run the entire hiring process on my own. Apex used a ranking process similar to a method used in my HR class at WSU. It was great to see the application of the concept in real life. I worked alongside Director of Operations Dave Spence, whose helpful feedback and mock interviews helped me overcome my nervous habit of speaking too fast and not giving the interviewee much of a chance to talk. Because of this training, I ran the offer meetings while Dave sat in and gave me pointers after each meeting.
As for the front office, I mainly assisted in making recruiting more efficient. This involved making call lists, drafting scout emails, and formatting job descriptions for each “hot job”—a new vacant position a partnered firm wanted Apex to fill. If I decide to one day go into the HR field, this knowledge will likely be very useful for any future job, as I am now confident in my ability to run an interview and hire someone.
Total immersion leads to personal and professional growth
Compared to the average study abroad, I believe mine was much more immersive than the typical exchange program because I lived on my own in Shin Nakano, a small city near Tokyo. I accounted for every resource myself, including learning the transportation system. Each morning was a 45-minute commute to work involving two trains and a short walk to my office. At first, the train system was daunting. However, after about a week of using Google Maps and my Japanese skills to occasionally ask for help, I began to understand the patterns of the train lines. Eventually I was even able to comfortably explore other cities on my time off.
As with most people who go abroad for an extended period, I went through the expected emotional stages of this experience. After the excitement of arriving the night before my first day at work, nerves began to settle in. I began doubting myself and my ability to work in a global environment. What if Dave saw something in me that wasn’t actually there? What if I ended up being horrible at my job?
Despite these questions, I knew there was no pulling out. As I made more friends at my office and they began inviting me to eat lunch or grab drinks with them after work, my mindset shifted. I started to appreciate the chance to experience new things fully on my own.
Looking back on my experience, I am glad I pushed myself to continue through it. I learned so much about myself professionally and personally. I feel this has been the most beneficial experience I’ve had during college. Not only did I gain valuable work experience, I also found a deeper sense of cultural awareness. This will help differentiate me in a largely competitive workforce, as I plan on carrying these lessons with me far beyond graduation.