To get 2016 off to a flying start, we caught up with Ya, a student at Columbia University in NYC, who’s pursuing her Master’s in Industrial Engineering.
Rather than stay in the USA or go back to her native China for her summer internship, Ya wanted to head further afield to gain some more extensive international experience. With the chance to work at one of Asia’s most exciting and disruptive startups, Aggrigator, Bangalore was Ya’s destination of choice.
She was kind enough to take some time out of studying for her finals to discuss her work and travel life in Bangalore, as well as her plans moving forward.
Matt: Did you have any experience abroad before BrainGain?
Ya: I have had some experience traveling abroad. As I am Chinese, being at Columbia is studying abroad. I’ve also been to Australia for a month and traveled to Japan.
Neither of them gave me such a distinct exciting experience as the one I had in Bangalore. It’s a well-mixed culture of Indian and the Western world. It also has good food from all across Asia and the West.
M: Did you have any career plans before BrainGain came into your life?
Y: I was not clear about what I wanted to do and what type of company I’d prefer at that time.
I vaguely knew that I wanted to work in the US after my graduation from Columbia University. I may choose between supply chain management, business analysis, or marketing.
M: Why did you want to work abroad?
Y: It’s not only about challenges from work but also cultural conflict, which is the most exciting part of working abroad. It’s also a good time to practice English and spread your own culture to new people.
M: Did you have to overcome any obstacles before moving abroad?
Y: My parents always worry about safety issues and other things because I am a girl. But you become more independent after you work abroad, and I learnt how to protect myself and others. I feel that I grew up a lot in those 2 months.
I am close to my family. If you stay away for more than a month, you will miss your family and old friends. But this forces you to go out and make new friends.
Either you become adaptable in your new environment or you are isolated by your new surroundings. So this is the time to choose and react as an adult and think on your feet.
M: What were your initial impressions of your new city? And how have they changed?
Y: It (Bangalore) is so different and I didn’t have time to miss home, I just kept absorbing new things. How to order Indian food, drink coconuts and take an Auto. It was so exciting. But I did have some safety issues because the drivers sometimes don’t know your destination. Making sure your phone is close by is always necessary. Also, take an Uber in the evening. I also learned how to deal with emergencies.
M: How about your experiences of working in a foreign workplace?
Y: From the start, I felt the work culture in my company was very good. At my startup, you were exposed to a lot of new things from day one and had a lot of responsibility. It was a very healthy and organic firm. One big difference, which I liked a lot, was that we were good friends and we had lunch nearly every day together, even after work.
Another difference is that your work time is flexible, you can get coffee or snacks any time you want. My co-workers sometimes browsed Facebook or listened to music, which is not working. We produced better work as the focus time for humans is limited. So a more challenging and motivated working environment was the main difference.
M: Do you plan on continuing your international career?
Y: I am planning to. There is so much more for me to explore. It keeps me passionate about my work and daily life. As well as this, having a different background also helps your career in a new country. You think through things differently and this can add value to a foreign firm. Also learning how international companies work is beneficial as you will be more adaptable and mature.
M: The high(s) during your time in Bangalore?
Y: Aha:(no order)
Troy’s diet change, from vegetarian to meat eater again, haha.
Bars in Bangalore aren’t as noisy and crowded as in the US.
Indian food. Eating with hands, feel close to the food and it’s more enjoyable.
Friends. I made friends with my coworkers and people from around the world; Brazil, England, Italy, and also Chinese. The people who come to Bangalore are more fun; they are cool, ambitious, and adventurous.
Awesome places to travel in both the South and North. One bonus, it’s very cheap.
M: The Low(s)?
Y: 1. I got sick twice. The first time was really bad, I had fever and diarrhea for 4 days. I may have drank the regular water in a restaurant. Bad experience. You must be super careful about what you drink and eat.
Auto drivers don’t know the route and they raise prices after you get in even though it’s their fault that you got lost.
M: Words of wisdom for those looking into interning/working abroad?
Y: You don’t get just the work in Bangalore, but also a new life. Don’t forget, India is incredible.
During her time in Bangalore, Ya epitomized the work abroad spirit. She adapted to her new culture and workplace, and found incredible reward in learning new skills and working in new ways. We sincerely hope that she carries on her international experiences moving into the future.
Ya has just finished her finals in Columbia University and is going to work at a financial consulting firm in New York. We wish her the very best of luck in her new position and hope she keeps exploring this big and beautiful world.