By Lauren Wallace

Julian Forero, a second-year student from Wellington, Florida, interned for McKinsey & Company in Bogotá, Colombia this summer. His interest in Colombia stemmed from his family ties to the South American country where he grew up before he relocated to the U.S with his family at the age of eleven. Julian is a Consortium Fellow and is involved in the Latin American Student Association, Consulting Club, and Soccer Club at Darden. Prior to Darden, Julian worked in asset management as an investment analyst. Julian took a few minutes to share about his global internship experience this summer.

Please tell me more about your summer internship in Colombia. How did find out about this opportunity?

This internship opportunity came about through a Darden coffee chat with McKinsey’s campus recruiter. Towards the end of our conversation, we somehow got to talking about a vacation I was planning to Colombia during winter break to visit my family. The recruiter asked me if I had any interest in working in Colombia and put me in contact with the McKinsey office in Bogotá. After speaking with members of McKinsey Colombia and reflecting about what I wanted out of my career, I decided to apply to the Bogotá office. I have always had a desire to go back to Colombia, and once I got the offer I knew that going back was the right move for me.

What skills do you think you gained or improved upon through this global internship? How would you compare learning in an internship setting to learning in the classroom?

McKinsey does a great job of formalizing their internships across all of their offices so that every intern has a similar global experience while still retaining the offices local feel and culture. Working in an engagement in another country allows you to see differences in how businesses operate and how people conduct themselves in different cultures. I experienced a completely different work culture in Colombia from what I had experienced in the US. People tended to be more open and friendly and took the time to get to know one another on a personal level but it also tended to be a little less efficient. Because businesses and people operate differently in Colombia than in the U.S, I saw many possibilities for growth and opportunities to improve businesses, both in the US and in Colombia, by applying the perspective learned from my experience in each country. Additionally, even though I speak Spanish with native fluency, I had never gotten to practice speaking Spanish in a business setting. Working in a Spanish-speaking office and being immersed in the culture certainly helped improved my Spanish language skills.

One skill I learned this summer that cannot necessarily be taught in the classroom is how to adjust to changing requirements, plans, and demands. In a classroom setting, the facts and problems are set and there’s very little ambiguity to what must be accomplished. In the “real-world”, information can be hard to get, objectives can be unclear, and requirements can change as new information is uncovered. An internship allows you the opportunity to really bring out your creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making skills to tackle these issues in a timely and efficient manner to deliver real lasting impact to a client. It’s an experience that can’t really be replicated in the classroom because there are real and tangible implications to your decisions and actions.

Describe your experience on the Darden Worldwide Course in Sweden. Were you able to incorporate anything you learned from this DWC into your internship in Colombia?

One of the reasons I chose the Darden Worldwide Course was its focus on sustainability. Knowing that I would be interning in Colombia over the summer I thought it would be interesting to compare sustainability practices between Sweden and Colombia. In Sweden, sustainability efforts are seen everywhere; in government policies, city infrastructure, and most importantly, in the way citizens live their life. Sweden is very conscious of proper waste management and energy conservation practices and it is evident everywhere you look. While sustainability is prevalent in the social mindset of Sweden, it does not seem to be a top priority for a lot of Colombians.  That being said, Colombia is starting to be more aware of the issues and there are many opportunities and new initiatives to help elevate sustainability efforts in the country.

Also, a big initiative in Sweden is it’s push to become a cashless society by relying on electronic transactions (credit cards, payment apps, etc.). At my internship, I had the opportunity to work in digital strategy for a financial company and was able to bring some of the lessons learned from Sweden into our problem-solving sessions.

What are the most valuable lessons you have learned from these global experiences? Are you interested in working abroad after graduating from Darden?

One of the most valuable things about going abroad is returning with an expanded   mindset. When you get to experience another culture, it allows you gain a different perspective that you can use better yourself, your company, and your community. This summer, I had an opportunity to constantly interact with different cultures (my team was made up of Peruvians, Argentineans, Chileans, and Colombians) which is a skill that is imperative in today’s globalized world.

I am definitely interested in international work experience after I graduate from Darden. I have always wanted to pursue a global career and my experience in Darden and at my summer internship in Colombia further solidified that.

Before attending Darden, did you plan to participate in Darden’s global academic programs? What would you tell students who are considering participating in a global opportunity?

Before coming to Darden, I looked into Darden’s global opportunities and was impressed and excited by Dean Beardsley’s emphasis on global learning opportunities for students in the MBA program. I wanted the opportunity to study abroad to learn about different cultures and Darden’s global academic offerings cater to that.

For students on the fence about interning in another country (or studying abroad), do it—especially if have not had the chance to experience another country in depth. A global internship is a 10-week learning course that sharpens your skills, expands your mindset, and gives you a great excuse to travel.

Enjoying the sunset in Cartagena, Colombia