Since I was young, I really wanted to visit other countries, especially the United States. However, after entering university, my desire for an overseas experience weakened as my mind became preoccupied with worries about getting a job and job preparation. Then, I saw an announcement for the Disney World internship at the Office of International Affairs. I jumped at the chance to join and participated in the internship with the thought "If I don't do it now, I'll never get another chance." Disney is a leading global company, so no matter the job I was given at Disney World, I believed it would be meaningful to work in an English-speaking nation, make new friends, and experience an overseas corporate culture. After the seven months of US life ended, I really wanted to go there again, so I went back by joining another year long-term US internship program.
The United States I experienced
There was a singer I liked since when I was young, and a documentary related to that singer influenced me a lot. Through the documentary, my romantic ideas of the US grew. Writing my letter of self-introduction during the SMWU's application period, I wrote about my desire to work at Disney World, and it came true. As I was more interested in the cultural industry, I wanted to experience a real job rather than participate in a program as an exchange student. I thought the Disney internship would be a fascinating experience because it only accepts applicants from a few select schools. The United States and Korea were very different in many ways. The United States is a country of various people. Florida is a state composed of a number of people with South American, Haiti, and Jamaica heritages like Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Venezuelans. I was the only Asian in my department. However, California is completely different. The Asian ratio is incredibly high, with more than half of the people of Asian heritage. In particular, there are a very large number of Koreans. Under this circumstance, people seemed more familiar with socializing than Korea. I was also shocked by the culture in the US. For instance, many families with babies were teenagers, and many of those families were single parent families. This is not common in Korea, but no one seemed overly concerned about the situation in the US. The workplace culture was also stricter than in Korea. Korean companies consider letting staff go due to a human affection, but in the US, it is legitimate to fire an employee immediately if a company has a justifiable reason. Once a decision to dismiss an employee has been made in the US, the company never seemed to reverse its decision.
Experiences at Disney and a Korean distribution company
Disney uses characters from childhood memories to create stories and make money. Disney World, where I worked, earns profits by using them at restaurants, resorts, and on amusement rides. One of the facilities that I worked at was the All Star Music resort. I was placed in charge of food and beverages. It was a great place to make new friends and learn various cultures because most of my coworkers were foreigners and had their own time. After then, I worked in LA at a Korean distribution company. The LA headquarters where I worked had about 70 employees and had branches throughout the US. The company employed a large number of Korean university students through its global internship program. I began at the company with the human resources team, but after a few months, I was transferred to the warehouse team to work for the coordinator of that team. My time with the warehouse team allowed me to better assess my work performance and directly participate in the field, which better suited my aptitude than work in the management department. In the warehouse team, I was placed in charge of shipping arrangement, truck placement, the clearing of bills of ladings, and routing. I had to prepare shoe company orders at the warehouse, so once the shoe company sent us its order, I was responsible for getting the shoe order to companies like Amazon, Forever 21, Marshalls, and Gordman. And the company's shoes which were made in China were stored and distributed from the warehouse where I worked. My main task was to manage and supervise drivers and employees at the warehouse. The job was an excellent fit for me because I love walking around and meeting people rather than just sitting at a desk.
The United States is full of fun things
Florida State University and SMWU are closely connected, so I spent two weeks at FSU as an exchange student before moving to my internship at Disney. Recalling my days in the US, I distinctly remember FSU life most intensely. It was my first time in the US, and it was everything I imagined. I played in the fountain for the first time of my life, experienced the fourth of July fireworks celebration and shared a dormitory room with other foreign schoolmates. I made a lot of good memories there. After spending time at FSU, I started my job at Disney, where I enjoyed my job and made many good friends. I finished work at about 10 or 11 pm. After work, friends and I would go to a fast food chain and spend time talking together. I quickly got accustomed to my job and life, so I traveled to Panama with my American friends on vacation and went to Miami alone. I also went to New Orleans and New York with my roommate from SMWU. Seven months was short, but I enjoyed each and every day.
From 'Do you wanna go McDonalds?' to my current English ability
Before going to the US, I was not a confident English speaker because I had only learned English in Korea. This would surprise my friends. They may think that I'd spent many years in the US. Interestingly, once I got accustomed to the US accent, many US people mistook me for a Korean-American. However, to be honest, when I first arrived in Florida, I found it hard to even ask, 'Do you wanna go McDonalds after work?' I was so nervous that I would practice the pronunciation of the word McDonalds almost 20 times beforehand. However, I loved US culture and that people gathered and accepted each other as they are. To give a word of caution, though, if you are fantasizing blindly about life in the US, you'd better dismiss it. Leaving your home nation to live in another land is not easy. You will face difficulties. You may encounter acts of racism and language discrimination, and you most definitely miss your family. Nonetheless, for me, I could grow my self-reliance while participating in an internship program. It is also an opportunity to think deeply about what I like.
Let's be Sookmyungians who do more of what we like
Personally, I highly recommend an internship program to anyone interested in applying for one, but do not join out of obligation or do not push yourself too hard to join. You can also spend a meaningful time in Korea. I have friends who worked hard domestically and succeeded in creating something of their own while I spent my days abroad. For those, though, who are interested in an overseas internship, but are hesitant to participate due to fear of cultural adaptation or language or moving from home, I say go. My two years in the US were the most fun I have ever had in my life.