A student from China, looking for a great education in America, finds Lehigh University and the rest is history.
Well actually, this story is still being written.
Ke “Coco” Xue ’13, a chemical engineering student, traveled back to China for six weeks last summer through Lehigh’s Lee Iacocca International Internship Program.
“I wanted to do something valuable during the summer and gaining an international internship experience was an attractive idea,” said Coco.
Coco is from Changzhou, a city of more than 3 million people located just west of Shanghai in the province of Jiangsu.
“I decided to come to the United States to pursue [a] better education,” she said. “I can meet people from different races, different nationalities and different perspectives here.
“I chose to come to Lehigh because it is a small community so that people have closer relationships with each other; also Lehigh has a good reputation for engineering.”
Adding business and communications skills
Her next decision was to declare a major in chemical engineering.
“I chose chemical engineering because it involves many fields of studies, such as bioengineering, environmental and energy engineering, materials science and the food industry.”
Coco applied for an international internship her junior year and was placed with Bracalente Manufacturing Group, a family-owned company located 15 miles from Lehigh in Trumbauersville, Pa. BMG owns Bracalente Metal Products in Wujiang, China, about two hours from Coco’s home.
Coco encountered a few challenges at the beginning of her internship in Wujiang.
“Since the internship was more on the business side, I had to learn business principles [before] I could help solve problems.
“I did two projects for this internship during my six weeks in China. Since I know both Chinese and English, I didn’t have any problems communicating.”
Coco enjoyed the “family culture” at BMG.
“Employees treat each other with respect, equality and trust,” she said. “The colleagues and I are not just friends; we are more like a family.
BMG’s owner, Ron Bracalente, also hosted an undergraduate intern in 2011.
“It has been a pleasure to be part of the Lehigh International Internship program,” he said. “This program is a true win for the hosting company and the student intern.”
Returning home to a job offer
Upon returning to the United States, Coco received the good news that Bracalente had decided to offer her a full-time position when she graduates next May. She will work mostly at BMG’s headquarters in Trumbauersville and also travel to China.
“The most valuable lesson I learned from this internship is the importance of communication,” she said. “Since it is a U.S. joint venture company, confusions and misunderstandings arise due to language barriers and cultural differences. It is crucial to understand and know situations on both sides, and then it is easier to solve problems.”
The International Internship Program, said its director, Carol Ham, placed 14 students with overseas internships last summer and plans to find jobs for 40 more next summer. Its goal is to place more than 100 per year in the near future.
Coco’s experience—landing a job with the company for which she interned—is not typical for international interns, said Ham.
”This is one success story resulting from the program, but there are many others as evidenced by the professional and personal growth demonstrated by students upon their return,” said Ham.
The International Internship Program also sponsors group internships headed by faculty and staff. Examples for summer 2013 include:
• TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) students will travel to China
• Program development and evaluation, research and teaching experience for students in Cambodia
• A research-based group will go to Malaysia.
To learn more, visit http://www.lehigh.edu/intint/oiaii/.