Penn Abroad Ambassador Stephanie Shen

Student on a weekend trip to Malaysia with friends
College '25
Cognitive Science
Penn Abroad Leader (PAL)
Program
Global Research & Internship Program

Program:

  • GRIP: Business Development in Singapore

Ask me about...

  • Traveling while abroad: going out of my placement country to explore the area. Because I was in Southeast Asia, it was super feasible to take weekend trips to nearby countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, and Malaysia without having to take any time off of work.

  • Living abroad without a phone: my phone broke halfway through my first month in Singapore and I wasn’t able to buy a new one, so I learned how to survive abroad using paper maps, writing down the bus and train lines and times every morning, communicating with my parents with daily emails and the occasional Google Meet call, and just going fully tech free whenever I was not at work!

  • Working at a diverse company: my CEO was Dutch and British, and my coworkers were Philippino, Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian, and Singaporean.

  • Experiencing big changes in the company and being able to progress in my role despite them: my company had a big layoff in my 4th week, where the CEO had to fire multiple employees. Afterward, multiple other staff members resigned or were fired. 

My Experience Abroad:

My internship placement was at Skills Union, a small ed-tech startup in Singapore. When first interviewing with the different startups, I was super intrigued by the CEO Colin’s vision of a “skills map” that would essentially show the concrete skills gaps for software engineers in both soft skills and technical skills. The idea was that, from there, Skills Union could provide training to fill that gap and help companies hire engineers whose profiles almost exactly matched their needs.

Though I had little technical background, having only taken one CIS class at Penn, I was placed into the role of a tech recruiter for senior engineers in the SE-Asia sector. I parsed through hundreds of resumes every day, conducting interviews with candidates I thought were qualified and getting guidance from the software engineers at Skills Union on how to look past the list of programming languages on someone’s resume and instead read into their work experience and skills developed from personal and company projects. And even though I felt unqualified to hire tech teams on behalf of other companies, I learned so much about recruiting engineers throughout my two months.
My experience exposed me to so many different fields, from HR to UX design, marketing, L&D, and more, and it gave me the opportunity to explore different disciplines in a real-world setting. From my internship, I grew inspired to take my first steps in design and marketing through coursework at Penn, and am currently enrolled in MKTG 1010 and DSGN 0001.

I also discovered so many hidden passions and interests throughout my summer. Though I now know that HR might not be for me and have yet again reinforced my belief that I am no software engineer, I discovered the power of design tools like Figma and Miro, which we used every day at work to sketch out ideas or organize goals to better accomplish them.

Other Highlights:

  • After participants finished their boot camp program with our company we hosted a graduation party at night for each class. I attended and took photos for a lot of these graduation ceremonies, and I had such a great time at them since I was able to meet Singapore natives who worked outside of Skills Union. In addition, we often went out to grab drinks and hang out afterward!

  • I went on an amazing weekend trip to Sentosa, the island to the South of Singapore's mainland. It was my first time having a yacht barbeque party, which was a super great time and the sunset views were truly incredible. I also loved just getting free time to explore - I went to see the Southernmost point of continental Southeast Asia with one of my friends, and we also spent a lot of time at the SEA Aquarium, one of the best aquariums I’ve ever seen (even though I grew up by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the US).

  • I went on an awesome trip to Malacca! I really enjoyed being immersed in a culture and language different from what I’m familiar with, and I really couldn’t get over how cheap everything was. One place sold entire watermelons for 2 Malaysian ringgit, which is under 3 dollars: they’d drill a hole in the watermelon and blend the entire inside, then stick in straws and ice and you could just drink the crushed watermelon and juice!

  • Though this was definitely something unexpected and life-changing for a lot of my coworkers, I learned a lot from being at my company during a time of organizational change. I grew close to all my remaining coworkers through discussing the state of the startup and learned from the way the CEO handled the changes with increasing transparency and support for the remaining employees. I became friends with all my coworkers in an outside-of-work context, and everyone else grew so much closer as we navigated new company directions and board updates with a much smaller and more tight-knit team of 9 employees.

  • I was able to meet our clients and talk to new clients right when I started. I started small by getting added to group calls with clients at different stages of the collaboration process, and in the end, I was even able to participate in these meetings and answer client questions about the recruiting process on our side. It was really cool to feel involved in the development of our company and to be contributing to the communication with clients.

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