For most students, internships provide an opportunity to broaden their horizons while exploring their desired career path. This experience is enhanced further when it is completed abroad, as Ada Fu ’18 (finance) discovered when she spent the summer in Germany interning with Ernst & Young (EY). She discusses the highlights of her month-long trip abroad and how students can succeed in internships, whether locally or around the world.
How did you secure this internship with EY? What made you decide to take the internship in Germany rather than finding a similar opportunity in the United States?
I found this on CSUF’s Study Abroad website, which mentioned a student exchange program with Aalen University in Germany. Through the school’s partnership, I was able to obtain an internship in assurance practice with EY in Stuttgart.
When the opportunity was presented, I knew right away that it suited me perfectly. Not only would I get to explore the world, but I would also be able to discover what a career in public accounting would look like outside the United States. I also knew that I would be exposed to different accounting standards and people of diverse cultural backgrounds.
What was a typical “day in the life” during your four week in Germany?
I divided my time working for both the audit and financial accounting advisory services.
For the first two weeks, I was in the office working alongside Huma, a fellow senior, to become familiar with an accounting standard known as IPSAS and conduct a research project on IPSAS conversions, to become familiar with an accounting standard that I was previously unaware of. Huma provided instructions on my assignments, while also giving me time to research and compile the information into a report. At the end of each day, we would look over it together, and she would provide feedback.
In my final weeks, I worked with a team at a major client site to audit consolidated financial statements and reporting packages. The biggest challenge I had to overcome was working in the German language. I adapted by working closely with my colleagues and using translations to circumvent any difficulties.
Each day, I was assigned various tasks, such as checking and matching numbers, reviewing reports and making pivot tables on Excel sheets to analyze data.
My favorite aspect of the internship was the diversity of the office. I met people from many countries who relocated to Germany for work.
Did you notice any differences in Germany’s business culture compared to Southern California?
Workers in Germany are very focused and serious when they are on the clock. The office was always very quiet with few people making small talk. People in Germany are also less open about their personal lives. They endeavor to keep their work and personal lives separate.
By law, employees may not work more than 10 hours per day. They also have many more holidays than we do in Southern California. During the four weeks that I was there, we had two days off due to bank holidays. They have more than 30 days off during an entire year.
Germans are also more likely to take public transportation, such as trains, to get to work.
What advice would you give to fellow students about finding and succeeding in internships, whether at home or abroad?
My advice is to not give up and continue to be proactive when searching for an internship. Mihaylo College provides so many resources and opportunities to network with professionals, but do not let your search stop there. Don’t limit yourself nor be afraid to take on an internship that is away from home if the opportunity is presented. If I had not expanded my search, I would not have had the experience I had this summer.
I would certainly recommend that students take an internship abroad. It gives you a chance to travel and work at the same time. For accounting students in particular, having an internship abroad provides an opportunity to work with different accounting standards, such as IFRS.
What’s next for you?
I want to start my career in accounting here in Southern California. I will be looking for a full-time position this semester at an accounting firm. I want to obtain my CPA certification and pursue a career in auditing.