U.S. Embassy internships are rare opportunities for undergrads to make a difference in international affairs, and for Katie Mulderink, a senior business management, international business, and Spanish triple major from Crete, Ill., this type of opportunity was something she would never forget. Mulderink's pursuit of a career in Foreign Service took an important step forward as she spent the summer as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile. Mulderink worked in the U.S. Commercial Service Department which promotes the export of U.S. goods and services, and protects U.S. business interests in Chile.
"I always wanted to obtain an internship abroad but I was not familiar with how to begin," said Mulderink. "Millikin International Business Professor Dr. Mark Munoz advised me to contact the Senior Commercial Officer through the U.S. Embassy – Santiago, Chile website. After a two month application process I was confirmed as an official intern and had to report in May."
Mulderink acted as the assistant to the commercial specialists in the U.S. Commercial Service Department which helped expand her knowledge on international trade.
"The commercial specialists deliver customized business solutions to ensure that U.S. businesses compete and win in the local marketplace," said Mulderink. "My daily responsibilities included conducting market research, creating business plans, counseling U.S. Chilean clients, participating in local trade shows, creating industry overviews, translating, editing reports and scheduling meetings."
Prior to her internship, Mulderink's first experience abroad began with a Millikin University Spanish immersion course to Chile during her sophomore year. She also studied in Murcia, Spain during the spring semester of her junior year. Throughout her time in Europe she traveled to 15 different countries and developed new communication skills and a heightened sense of global community.
"When I obtained my internship in Chile I acclimated to the culture and country easier than expected,” said Mulderink. "My previous travels helped me to communicate better in Chile and it helped me become more flexible, adaptable, and intuitive. I was able to adjust quite easily because of my previous experiences and my passion for discovering new cultures."
One of Mulderink's favorite experiences during the internship was working with the Florida Trade Mission. The State of Florida Department of Transportation wanted to provide a safe transportation system that ensured the mobility of people and goods, enhancing economic prosperity, and preserving the quality of the environment and communities. Mulderink was able to attend all the meetings and receptions held for Florida Governor Rick Scott whom she was able to personally meet.
When asked how this experience will play a role in her professional career after Millikin Mulderink said she hopes that her "professional approach and an efficient work style will continue after Millikin." She has solidified her interest to pursue a career in Foreign Service work with an international company in a metropolitan city utilizing both business and Spanish degrees.
Mulderink did face some challenges during her time in Chile such as adjusting to the language, but her interactions with coworkers and professors were helpful and she received plenty of great advice for her future.
"I did not realize it at first but when I returned home from studying abroad in Murcia, Spain, I developed a greater self-confidence, independence, and self-reliance," said Mulderink. "When I returned home from Chile, I gained a different view of international affairs, from politics to economics to social issues. I returned with a new appreciation for the U.S. because I was able to understand our culture on a deeper level."
Mulderink added, "I am grateful I was able to intern with the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile. A career in Foreign Service provides the most interesting work in the world and opportunities that few jobs can rival. This internship was by far the most challenging, exciting, and rewarding. Not only did I gain specialized knowledge and experience in international business, but it created a passion to work in Foreign Service."
Carmen Aravena, director of Millikin University's Center for International Education, says "the Center for International Education takes great pride in offering our students programs abroad in various countries around the world. We send students to places such as Argentina, Chile, China, Dominican Republic, England, France, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, and Thailand. Katie was a student who really took advantage of our programs and truly lived and breathed the study abroad experience."
Aravena added, "Studying abroad ignites educational drive in college students and will undoubtedly lead to new academic interests all while instilling a new dedication to career and life achievement. For Katie, studying in Spain was never going to be the end of her international experiences, and I'm proud that it inspired her to get involved with International Affairs. These international experiences left a lasting impact on her view of the world, and it is my hope that more students will reach out and take advantage of the international opportunities waiting at their fingertips."