2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by The Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund
In finding options for summer internships, all I knew was that I wanted to experience a little bit of everything, thereby hopefully learning more about what I wanted to do. As a rising sophomore, it was expectedly difficult to find companies who would even talk to me, let alone hire me.
Listservs were helpful, even though most of their opportunities applied to rising seniors. I was particularly interested in the ever-diverse nature of startups and the blended experiences they inherently offered. After skimming through each listserv, I found LocalAventura at the bottom of a random Wharton Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club email with a short blurb essentially saying, “We’re a startup in Latin America founded by Wharton MBAs. Email for more information.” At that point, I had nothing to lose and emailed with a short sentence, asking for more.
That one email launched into a whirlwind of interviews, Google Hangouts, and even an in-person meet-up with one of the co-founders, Andrea (Drea) Vidler. By the time I walked out of Starbucks under Commons, I was sold. Drea was so obviously passionate about LocalAventura, Latin America, travel, and female empowerment, and I knew I found an environment I had to immerse myself in for the summer. (LocalAventura is a travel-booking platform dedicated to connecting adventurous travelers with local guides for an authentic travel experience.)
While I had never been to Latin America before, I had always wanted to go; I had studied Spanish since middle school and wanted to see for myself the culture of South America. Before I knew it, I had signed myself up for 5 weeks in Santiago, Chile and 6 weeks in São Paulo – without knowing a bit of Portuguese.
Working for a startup taught me to be more confident and fearless. Even if your work isn’t perfect, you can’t be afraid to break things. The quick pace of a startup is the definition of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” I learned to be open-minded to each and everything and that even unsolicited advice is always welcome. Even if an idea someone suggests seems ridiculous, what’s the harm? This especially paid off after our summer of mobilizing travelers to book tours when we found our secret sauce in the most unpredictable way: posting on forums.
Throughout my internship, I learned to break things both in and out of the workplace. I had my purse stolen, I took a last-minute weekend excursion to Rio de Janeiro, and I learned Portuguese –and all of these things were a beautiful part of living life this summer. During the day, I worked with customers for 8 hours and helped walk them through their itinerary and possible tours. After work, I’d go out with my co-workers to new neighborhoods, amazing restaurants, and enjoy the vibrant culture. As I lived with my fellow interns, life with LocalAventura was all-encompassing and amazing.
This important lesson has resonated with me even beyond this summer. Working for a startup abroad was one of the best experiences I could have asked for in developing my interpersonal and work-related skills. The dynamic nature of a startup with the immersion of being abroad provides you with amazing opportunities along with some good stories to tell. In my eyes, a startup environment is the perfect first-year summer internship.