Virtual Internships Abroad Unique Summer "Abroad"

September 9, 2020
By Shelby Dugas, Wharton '23

A 10-week experience abroad in the beautiful and culturally-rich city of Medellín, Colombia? Yes, that would have been ideal. Instead, I spent a safe, educational, and productive summer at home in Dallas, Texas. Although I was initially disappointed in trading a summer of discovery and growth in a Spanish speaking country for my childhood bedroom, I was incredibly excited and grateful to be offered an opportunity to work and learn remotely.

Nevertheless, I was skeptical. Could my virtual internship abroad truly be an immersive, global experience? Luckily, during my time at InverKapital, a boutique investment banking firm in Medellín, these initial doubts were proven to be misguided, as I found that I was easily incorporated into the international firm’s day-to-day business operations.

My first tasks at IK helped me to familiarize myself with the buy-sell process in Latin America, and learn about specific industries vital to Colombia’s economy. I then moved on to conduct market research on financial data to forecast revenue and industry trends. During the second half of my internship, I assisted with financial analysis and mid-market valuations, updating multiple financial models with mid-year statements to factor in the effects of COVID-19. This task, to me, was incredibly relevant and enlightening, as I was able to see the tangible, numerical effects the pandemic has had on three different Colombian businesses serviced by IK.

I also translated information memos, teasers, and the company’s website, acting as the first bridge to expanding IK’s buyer network to the American market. Despite my many years of Spanish learning, translating was my first challenge on the job. I quickly discovered that while I was confident in my Spanish comprehension and reading abilities, technical finance terms in Spanish had yet to make an appearance in any of my classroom vocabulary lists. My aunt, a native Spanish speaker, laughed when I first told her a slew of words that had appeared on the financial statements, corporate documents, and legal contracts in the due diligence database I was working on. She claimed that even native speakers would have trouble understanding such intricate, complicated texts. However, as time passed and I began to acclimate myself, these words became easily identifiable and familiar.

This acclimation also included creating a schedule to complete my remote work. Luckily, I was in the same time zone as my coworkers at InverKapital, making them easily accessible and incredibly helpful in answering my questions related to the tasks I had been assigned, all of which I completed independently. Despite the new virtual format, I was surprised to discover that I was truly having a global experience from my home. I was immersed in international business, I got an intimate glimpse into the operation of multiple Colombian businesses, and I was able to advance my Spanish comprehension skills. In addition, I learned lessons not only in time management and discipline but also in communicating effectively and professionally in a virtual environment.

Walking away from this summer, I believe that my time at IK was the perfect introduction to the finance industry. While my knowledge was initially limited, I have now garnered a very clear sense of all that investment banking entails. This, I believe, could not have been accomplished in a different, larger environment. Therefore, I am incredibly grateful to have worked in a small business environment, as I was able to directly interact with partners and analysts and be a part of all aspects of the acquisition process, which further confirmed my interests in the finance sector.