In a crowded conference room last Thursday, 40 students piled into the Center for Career Education to learn about over 100 international internships dedicated to Columbia students available through the Columbia Experience Overseas program.
The CEO program offers students the opportunity to gain experience in an international workplace in order to better prepare them for careers in globalized industries.
"[CEO was created] recognizing, obviously, the University's global mission, the mission of the undergraduate schools that we serve, and equally recognizing that students are entering a far more globalized workplace," Dean of the Center for Career Education Kavita Sharma said.
Launched in 2007, the program allows students to participate in internships set aside for Columbia students, now in eight different cities around the world: London, Amman, Mumbai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and, most recently, Seoul.
The program works to make international internship opportunities accessible, helping students coordinate with employers and providing them with free housing, visa assistance, and financial aid for travel costs.
"Even when we started in 2007, [work experiences abroad] were still really reserved for people who had contacts, who were globally aware or savvy, who could find accommodation really quickly for a two-month period," Sharma said. "What we wanted to do with CEO was create the opportunity for students to feel that these opportunities could be accessible to everyone."
In addition, students will receive pre-program training sessions on making the most of their work experiences and working in a different cultural environment.
"I think the trainings are essential, because they're designed to build a platform for learning that, in some ways, you don't reap the benefit from until you're in that situation," Sharma said. "It's designed to launch that international component of the experience."
While away, students also have consistent mentorship from local alumni, as well as midsummer check-ins and a post-experience reflection session with CCE.
CEO is much more professionally oriented than some of Columbia's other summer programs. Companies, non-profits, and NGOs set aside these positions for Columbia applicants through CCE, but CCE does not manage the internships. Opportunities include positions at CNN, Barclays, and the International Medical Corps.
The application process is coordinated through the CEO internship database. Students may submit a resume and cover letter to a maximum of eight of the 102 internship opportunities in any number of cities. Employers then select candidates they want to interview and select for the positions. CCE coordinates the application process, but the companies make the final decisions.
There is a variety of paid and unpaid positions for students, each internship with its own list of applicant qualifications. Many do not have a language requirement.
The employers are found through multiple channels. Some are brought through alumni connections, some seek to list positions on LionSHARE, and others are simply global branches of local corporations that already work with CCE.
Interest in this program has been high—over 1,200 students applied last year. Those who have embarked on CEO have come back feeling more experienced and confident in the workplace.
"I think working in Hong Kong makes me more familiar with the universal working ethics, which definitely better prepared me for an internship. And it made me more aware of the differences between the east and the west," Shen Qiu, CC '16, and a CEO Hong Kong participant, said.
Students also cite the competitive edge that this program gives them in the job market.
"I recently interviewed with JPMorgan for my junior year internship, and I shared my internship experiences in Hong Kong and London, and they really loved it," Genevieve Antono, GS '17, and a CEO London and Hong Kong participant, said. "Definitely, that gave me, I think, a huge advantage in my junior year recruiting."
Ultimately, students report positive feedback about their time spent abroad and the experience they gained.
"I had a great experience. I really worked hard to make the most of my time," Antono said.
Applications are due to CCE on February 14th.