Taryn Hoffmann-Torres, a business accounting senior, spent this past summer in Brazil, in an internship with Deloitte, one of the “big four” accounting firms. Hoffmann-Torres recounts her experiences while in Brazil and how international internships can benefit business students.
Understanding the importance of internships in the contemporary business world, business accounting senior Taryn Hoffmann-Torres ‘15 took an accounting intern position in summer 2014. Working for Deloitte, a global financial services corporation operating in 150 countries, Hoffmann-Torres spent the summer in Fortaleza, Brazil, with the company’s Global Internship Program (GIP).
“The flight, lodging and meals were fully paid, in addition to a generous hourly pay that made the opportunity even more attractive,” Hoffmann-Torres says. “I had never been to Brazil but was always intrigued by its melting pot of cultures, its music, such as the samba and bossa nova, and its cuisine,” she says. “More importantly, I liked the challenge of working abroad and wanted to have a memorable internship experience.”
Deloitte prepared Hoffmann-Torres for the assignment by providing cultural travel guides and free access to language learning software Rosetta Stone to learn Portuguese, Brazil’s official language. Spoken by 250 million people around the world, mostly in Portugal, Brazil and parts of southern Africa, Portuguese is a romance language, like Spanish.
“With three months to prepare, I was able to communicate on a basic level by the day I arrived,” she says. “My previous knowledge of Spanish helped me further increase my Portuguese vocabulary as I often tried pronouncing Spanish words in Portuguese, which my colleagues deemed correct at least 60% of the time.” She says the main language difficulties she encountered involved business terminology. “The most challenging task was learning all of the Portuguese-language accounting terms, because technical words are not readily available via online translation software.”
Hoffmann-Torres describes some of the differences of Brazilian culture, compared to the American workplace: “They were very warm and friendly people who loved to laugh and sing while working. Other noticeable differences in the workplace included small coffee shots called cafezinhos and cookies served twice a day on client sites. My water glass was re-filled throughout the day without asking.”
The internship in Brazil provided invaluable experience, both as a multicultural communicator and an aspiring accountant. “I regularly updated and proofread financial statements, disclosures and auditor opinions, both in Portuguese and English,” she recalls. “I had the opportunity to work like a full-time audit associate.” She says her experience will be helpful as she starts an auditing career following her graduation, expected in spring 2015.
For students considering an international internship, Hoffmann-Torres offers some advice. “Students should set their sights on large, multinational firms that are known to invest in their employees,” she says. “Such firms establish programs where employees can rotate with offices abroad or take sabbaticals to explore the world on their own.” Once on the job, communicating your international aspirations with management can open doors of opportunity. “When opportunities arise, they will have you in mind,” she says.
An active member of the Mihaylo student community, she recommends involvement in campus clubs and events to improve a personal and professional portfolio. She is a Business Honors student and an active member of the Accounting Society, Beta Alpha Psi and the Black Business Student Association.