Butler University’s Butler in Asia program is a unique, six-week internship program in East and Southeast Asia. Butler students are able to work full-time in an industry directly connected to their course of study. Butler faculty travel with the study group for the first three weeks of the experience providing support and cultural context. Nearly $800,000 in funds from the Freeman Foundation helps to cover some of the costs for this opportunity. Approximately 125 students have had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Butler in Asia program since it began in summer 2015. Internship program options are offered in Shanghai, Beijing, and Singapore.
Butler Lacy School of Business student Xiaofu Yu was one of the interns studying through the Butler in Asia program during the summer of 2018. She took the time to share with Butler readers an excerpt from her travel and study blog:
5/14/18—Arriving in Malaysia
It has been such a long travel day. Fifteen Butler students, with majors ranging from Finance and Pharmacy to Communications, along with Dr. Ooi, an Associate Professor in Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies, met at the Indianapolis (Indiana) airport at 3:30 AM preparing to depart for our 30-hour trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Because of the pre-departure meetings (and after-finals relief), the group instantly started getting familiar with one another, although many of us recognized each other from other classes and activities on campus. Just prior to the trip starting, I began to have concerns about connecting with the rest of the group. But once we all met each other everyone seemed excited to meet new people and explore our commonality.
We’ve spent the last week in Malaysia visiting Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Melaka. It was great fun! Our schedule was jam-packed but we were able to immerse ourselves in the local culture as much as possible. Overall, Malaysia seemed quite slow-paced, so it was a great way to start summer and a short break before our internship starts. I really enjoyed our visit to Perak Cave Temple and Pinang Peranakan Mansion. It was interesting to learn the history and journey of Chinese immigrants and how the culture diversified with the locals. Mostly, I did not realize how much I missed speaking in Chinese. Even though English was widely spoken in Malaysia, it felt very close and personal to talk with someone in my native language.
5/21/18—Startup Internship Begins
My first day at my internship consisted of some administrative tasks and an introduction to the company I would be working for. I am currently working at a local residential real estate firm called OhMyHome. As a startup company, OhMyHome has already achieved great success in the field of property technology (proptech). The company focuses on maximizing consumers’ benefits, providing them with the platform and tools to create their buy/sell/lease experience on their own, as well as the option to work with an agent at a fixed price. The working environment is very welcoming and driven and everyone is highly concentrated on their own tasks, while willing to collaborate and assist colleagues. I am very excited to spend the next six weeks at OhMyHome, not only to learn more about the emerging real estate field in digital platform, but, more importantly, to connect with my co-workers and continue challenging myself.
I was frustrated because I wasn’t quite sure I was on track to finish a task. I was assigned to conduct research on the real estate market in all Southeast Asian countries, specifically Kuala Lumpur (Maylaysia) and Bangkok (Thailand). I spent most of my day trying to understand each country’s cultural background, economic and political status, technology markets, and legal barriers for a small business to enter. However, I was not able to digest all the information and in a way, I felt like I was not making any progress. I realized that real estate is still so raw and new to me and I realized quickly that if I stay motivated and continue to learn, by the end of the internship I will have gained so much more knowledge.
5/23/18—Making My Way; Meeting New Friends
Fortunately, I felt much better today after looking up more in-depth information for markets in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Cambodia. My biggest challenge so far is to change my mindset of writing a research report for class, to analyzing facts and finding how they will impact the company’s standing for the future. I have to rely on existing data of the real estate market in one specific country, in addition to thinking outside of the box to draw correlations. After organizing all my data in an excel sheet, I was able to have a much better sense as I began comparing each country’s unique consumer needs, existing programs, and legal regulations.
It has also been so nice to hang out with my new co-workers during lunch break and get to know each other better. As a startup company, although everyone has a specific role in the office and does more than the work that they are assigned, there is really no hierarchy or divisions. My co-workers always check on me to see if I am getting used to living in Singapore. From taking me to try out different local cuisine to giving me suggestions on where to go during weekends it is a blessing to get to know a group of young, talented people that are welcoming and caring.
5/30/18—A New Way of Thinking
I can’t believe that it is already the end of May. I feel more inspired and on track with this week’s workload compared to last week’s. Rather than continuously doing research on Southeast Asia’s real estate market, I have more flexibility to work on generating content and information for a public service account for the company, as well as thinking creatively about graphic design and layout. There are still times during the day where I begin to feel a bit lost but I think this is normal as real estate is a new field of study for me and interning at a startup firm requires a much different way of thinking compared to preparing for a class or studying for a test.
5/31/18—Staying Healthy and Exploring the City
Lately, I have been trying to keep up a healthy routine while I am abroad. My internship is from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM; however, I normally stay until 6:30 PM to finish up all the work. After I get home around 7:00 PM, I go to the gym for about an hour, then head to dinner at a food court in the mall that is near the apartment. Staying at Clarke Quay in downtown Singapore really helps us get around to a variety of restaurants and supermarkets. That is one of the main things that I miss about big cites—convenience. Everything is in walking distance or is accessible via subway or buses.
My roommate/friend, Mikayla and I discovered this bar with awesome live music on Bugis street. One day we were just checking out this pop-up café called Tokidoki and were attracted to the architecture and street art in the area. As we are doing a photography session, we both got distracted by the music from “The Beast.” We decided to go in to meet the performer. Long story short, we had a great time and are definitely thinking about coming back next Thursday!
6/7/18—Out of My Comfort Zone
During the past two days, I have been participating at Innovfest Unbound. It is an international market-based platform that connects innovative technology companies and showcases their most recent developments. I was mainly responsible for introducing OhMyHome to potential customers and investors when they stop by our booth. It was a bit awkward at the beginning as I am not usually outgoing but I quickly changed my mindset and decided to step out of my comfort zone to talk to people and share the OhMyHome experience.
Having direct contact with customers is interesting. It not only helps me gain a better understanding of the company’s business concepts and accomplishments, but also improves my ability to adapt to different situations. Not all the questions are straightforward or within my knowledge, but I tried my best to provide as much information as I could in regard to the function and operation of OhMyHome’s app and available services. Overall, I consider this event as a great learning experience. It was an opportunity for me to learn and be exposed to realistic questions from customers.
6/10/18—Don’t be Afraid; Try New Things
Lately, I have been reflecting on the dynamics of the students participating in the Butler in Asia program. It is important when traveling abroad with a large group to focus on the “big picture” and be considerate of the majority. I want the group to recognize how much time and effort others spent in order to maximize our exposure to local culture and I am really happy to see those who are interested in trying out new things.
Food plays such an important role in any culture, especially in Asia, where there is such a large variety of vegetables and types of cooking. Although, once in a while, the food may cause a cultural shock based on its display, or just simply because we as Asians think meat that is served with bones is more authentic and fresh. I am proud of those who are willing to take the risk and to challenge (surprise) their taste palette. After all, the main takeaway is to keep an open mind to try new things and to explore the unexpected whether it is a meal you’ve never had before, a new work experience, or getting out of your normal comfort zone. It is all part of the experience.