In our first year of our MBA programs, the best feeling is learning where we will spend our summer internships. Due to the pandemic, some companies have declined to bring interns to their offices in recent years. This summer, business returned to normal for MBAs. Companies decided it was time to open their corporate offices and welcome us back for the summer. That means many internships will take us to new cities and locations that we have never been to before.
Here’s what people told me: an internship isn’t just a way to learn whether you want to work for a specific company, but also if you enjoy living in that city. In many cases, the city where you’re spending your internship may be the city where you live. So it’s vital to see if you’re comfortable calling that city home. I asked my classmates how they felt about the location of where they’re currently interning. If anything, their advice helped them feel more acclimated to the literal “where” they work.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
One popular solution is doing old-school research on the city. Understanding the layout of the city is a great way to learn how to navigate it. For example, you can look into hot food spots, nightlife, and other city attractions that serve as perfect previews for the new city.
“I did a lot of research before I headed there,” said my classmate Ryan, who spent his summer as my roommate in Portland, Oregon. “I looked on travel guides, social media, websites, and other places to better understand where I was coming to.” His results revealed to him the massive food scene that resides in the city – a major positive for someone who says to “lives to eat”. Ryan was able to find joy in his home city the summer based off the research he did before landing.
Once in the new city, it helps to take a weekend and explore what you can. Seeing what the city is like in person is a window into the life you could potentially have. Finding the food spots, cultural hubs, and other places of interest would help paint the complete picture of what life could be like in your summer home. My method of choice has been picking a neighborhood of interest and exploring it during the weekend. Starting in the morning, I’ll intentionally take the metro system into the city center and explore. I’ll pick local food spots for breakfast and lunch. Then I walk around the neighborhood. Doing so allows me to see the city in its element. This way, I get to experience the life of my temporary residence is and learn the personality of where I will spend the next nine-to-twelve weeks.
SOAK IN THE ATMOSPHERE
In my excursion, I took the metro system from my apartment in a neighboring suburb to the Pearl District, often regarded as the liveliest part of the city. This neighborhood features restaurants, shopping, and a walkable area that will show you something new at every block. I then stopped to move to Southeast Portland: a neighborhood that has multiple strips of bars and varying cultural and fusion cuisines to offer. I had a great time in this area due to my love of regional food (something I share with Ryan). The best part of the Portland food scene is by far the food trucks. I couldn’t walk more than two blocks without seeing a different food truck ready to serve me a different type of food. From pizza to tacos to sandwiches, if it’s edible, chances are there’s a food truck for it in Portland.
Another tip from a classmate was to get inside information from the full-time employees. Personally speaking, this was one of the most valuable approaches for me this summer. As a Black man, I wanted to make sure I could find the Black community in the city. I was concerned about the city’s diversity as an alumnus of an HBCU (Howard University) and as a past resident of Washington, D.C. and a current resident of Atlanta, GA – two American cities known to be hubs for Black culture.
However, the members of the Black ERG at Nike (where I spent my summer internship) assured me that the Black community in Portland is a mighty (even if a small) force. To test this theory for myself, my fellow interns and I took to finding the Black community in the city. Our search led us to a Black-owned spot named Capitol Bar right as its post-brunch day party was starting to pick up. Anyone who knows me, knows that this is a situation I thrive in. Between the crowd and the music, I almost felt like I was right back in Washington, D.C. Getting that real-time view of how the Black community congregates together built my confidence in finding a home in Portland should I get an offer and return post-grad.
A NEW HOME
My final tip is to take advantage of what the summer has to offer. The summer is often the most active part of the year for cities. This provides the opportunity for different events. Part of enjoying the summer internship experience is watching how the local area comes to life at these events. In Portland, the Pearl District has monthly farmer’s markets where people were able to buy fresh produce and other items that vendors sell. During the market events, you could see how Portland comes alive in the summer. I was able to go to one of my first concerts since my undergraduate years. Not to mention, Portland experiences sunlight up until what felt like 11:00 pm – leaving so much time for day activities like hiking, which is a staple activity in Oregon. The Portland summer could help make the location feel like home.
A new city will always feel overwhelming, no matter how long you are there. I experienced this firsthand with my time in Portland. It was my first time ever seeing that part of the country. However, I was determined to grab the city by the horns and introduce it to a potential new resident. My time at Nike and Portland challenged me to grow outside of my comfort zone in terms of activities and pushed me into new horizons. Portland was a city that challenged me to look outside my usual means of finding fun and community. It charged me with shifting my expectations of what a city should look like. I believe any city one stays at can do this, all one needs to do is take the opportunity.
Bio: Myles T. Henry is a rising second year at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School studying Marketing & Digital Strategy. He is a New Jersey native and Howard University alumnus. Myles has always been interested in telling stories, and believes his calling is to “hear, create, and amplify stories of characters that were once ignored or unheard.”