Student Stories, GRIP, Internships Abroad

What I Know Now

November 27, 2018
By Stephanie Tian, Wharton '21

Ashoka - Mexico City, Mexico

My internship this summer has been an experience that, now sitting on my couch at home, I truly miss. The first few days back I kept doing the thing where I wake up and am confused by my surroundings, looking for my roommate in Mexico's cat and thinking I have to get ready for work. And I am now more conscientious of the cultural diversity of my neighborhood, the effect of global news events, and even how many straws I can boycott having spent so much time with new friends who were concerned about sharing those ideas with me. These reminiscences show me not only the impact that the internship itself has left but also the prominently ingrained changes that the experiences surrounding it have imposed on me as well:

1) The city planning team is great at their job. Arriving a few days early in order to explore Mexico City, I quickly found out about their beautiful canopied trees, pink taxis, shiny gold monuments, stunning museums, park-like universities, and the most exciting marble-floor metros. I could not believe how careful everything was designed to take care of the people. Between some large streets, there are walkways lined with flowers for aesthetic and built-in irrigation systems for environmental conservation. The city has more than just trash and recycling; when throwing trash, you have the choice of separating the organics from the recyclables from the non-recyclables. My favorite thing was how every Sunday they would close the main streets to encourage bikers and runners to exercise and be safe. That being said, there are some places in the city that were much less underdeveloped. I enjoyed visiting on a trip planned by my internship company the many organizations that were putting full efforts into transforming those areas into supportive, safe, and well-cared for neighborhoods as well. 

2) I loved the projects I worked on. Everyone, from my supervisors to the other interns, was a great mixture of pressured, inspired, and collaborative which is a motivating environment to work in and one in which if there was anything I needed more information on, there were many willing people to supply me with it and facilitate my development in it, and in turn the new skill I learned would benefit the work being done. I found myself employing all skills I have learned in the past and learning new skills "on the fly" to complete the projects I was working on, which was an exciting integration and great evaluation of what I could contribute and still could learn. 

3) It was cold. The weather tricked me. Being their rainy season, the weather was much colder than I had originally expected. Usually, it would rain exactly at 6 pm and continue until the morning. I thought it was fun knowing the weather always, but it still was messy walking through puddles and mud. Luckily, this gave me a great opportunity to go shopping, but I should have prepared beforehand for the torrent. 

4) I would be there to witness important events. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), a left-wing nationalist, was elected president in Mexico, winning against a party that has dominated Mexican politics since its founding in the 1920s. I was able to compare the political conversation from citizens to those in the United States as well. On the day of the election, huge display televisions were set up in the center of the city, and everyone flocked to watch it. The same audience flocked to restaurants and electronics stores during every Mexico World Cup game. When Mexico won against Germany, for weeks afterward my office conversation was jokes about the earthquake that resulted from "massive jumping." Soccer, a sport I had never kept up with before, became the catalyst for many bonding laughs, and I felt the unifying pride for the Mexico team as though I had followed them for years!


The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.