​​​​​​​10,000 Miles in a Jeep Wrangler: The Summer Internship Experience

An advantage of being in INSEAD’s December graduating class is the option to do a summer internship.  It’s the chance to gain experience in an industry or topic you’ve never worked in before. My pre-INSEAD background was in public policy, so any internship was going to be a change of pace. 

I accepted a pretty unconventional offer with a multinational organisation that makes electronics components in a part of the US where I hadn’t spent much time in before.  I was impressed with the company’s range of products, which go into every electronic device imaginable, and I got a great vibe from the down-to-earth reps that came to campus.  I didn’t expect my government background in trade and technology policy to be so immediately applicable, but we’re in a new world where policy decisions can affect business decisions in the blink of an eye. So my prior work experience turned out to be highly relevant.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how applicable my INSEAD education has been to the internship. 

My first six months at INSEAD felt like a whirlwind.  Things moved so fast, I often wondered if I was actually absorbing any of the material after cramming for finals every few weeks and moving on to new topics.  From the first day of my internship, though, I could see clearly how these lessons applied to the real world. 

My most surreal work experience this summer was a visit to the company’s headquarters.

The CEO—an INSEAD alumnus—found out I was in the building and insisted on meeting me. 

We discussed his career path, the business, my background, and how global political trends and economic policy affect the company.  I never imagined that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company would take an hour out of his day to chat with me, and I certainly wouldn’t have had this experience without INSEAD opening the door.

The summer has also been rewarding on a personal level.  I have to admit I wasn’t initially excited about working in various northeastern American cities which I have never heard of, farther from a major airport than I’ve ever been in my life (four hours).  Over the past two months, I’ve driven more than 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometres) across 11 states.  This has been completed mostly in a Jeep Wrangler, a far cry from the MINI that I had before I left the States.  It turns out the northeastern US is beautiful, with abundant wildlife, rolling hills and mountains, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and endless forests as far as the eye can see.  The wide-open spaces are welcome respites from the suburbs of Paris.

Long story short, I’m getting the American experience, and I say that as a born-and-bred American who was once in charge of miniature American flag placement (400 of them) for a fourth of July party.  All that driving has given me plenty of time to catch up on audiobooks, eat the world’s best pie and donuts, and see a lot of robots.  But more importantly, it has given me time to reflect on my life and career priorities, reconnect with family after several years in Europe, and appreciate my country more.