Reunion connects a decade of business interns

Alumni of the Foundation’s business internship programme flew in from around the country to reconnect, reminisce and have their interest in Asia rekindled at an event held in Auckland last month.

For more than ten years, the programme has provided dozens of young tertiary students and recent graduates the opportunity to live in Asia and gain an understanding of the business cultures of large Asian companies.

The experience also provides interns with invaluable insights into the culture of their host country and and a chance to develop new skills and make connections that will serve them throughout their careers.

“... you get to learn about the country on a person-to-person level, which gives you such a deeper connection and richer understanding of the place,” said Cleo Gilmour, who interned at United Media Solution in Shanghai in 2019.

When it was launched in 2009, the internship programme had only a handful of host companies, but (until Covid forced the programme online) has expanded to now offer 30 internships annually in 11 countries.

To date, 110 interns have been through the programme, including nine who undertook their internships online this year.

Speaking at the event, the Foundation’s executive director Simon Draper noted that, “No one comes back from these experiences unchanged, and the skills and resilience learned on a first journey to Asia can stay with you for the rest of your working career.

“The chance to touch, taste, smell Asia up close as a young person… None of that can be replicated in a business 101 course,” he said.

Watch a slideshow of photos from the day

It was a day of reconnecting with fellow interns, sharing stories and making new connections. Those whose internships were a number of years ago were able to pass on advice to more recent interns and share how their internship experience has helped them in their career.

A highlight of the day was a Q&A with former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe, hosted by Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network member Ziena Jalil.

Fyfe spoke about the increasingly important role Asia plays for New Zealand business and reiterated the value of the skills the interns had acquired through living and working in the region. He said it was now up to the interns to make the most of the experience they’d had.

“I think having spent some time offshore... you need to use that as a stimulus to just want to learn more and to keep looking for those opportunities.”

Once borders re-open businesses are going to see people “scrabbling to recreate connections” that may have atrophied over the previous 12-18 months, he said.

 “Those people that already have insights into some of those markets and those cultures, I think is going to be a really, really valuable skill, a valuable piece of experience that is going to be even more worthwhile as borders open than probably what it was when borders closed.”