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Down Under

New Zealand internship gives accounting student new take on life and work

Hiking to the top of a scenic peninsula, bonding with friends over a rugby game and learning to drive on the left side of the road – this is just a taste of the experience senior accounting student Katie Kurtz had as an international intern this summer.

Kurtz spent four weeks as an accounting intern with Ernst & Young in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was an incredible opportunity for personal and professional growth, especially for a student who was nervous when she first learned about the Dicke College of Business Administration’s requirement that its students complete at least one internship before graduating.

I was terrified thinking I would never be able to secure a professional experience,” says Kurtz. “I never would have guessed I would have the opportunity to travel across the world to work, let alone have the confidence to do so. It’s no doubt that my time at ONU and my relationships with peers and professors guided me to this experience and allowed me to take a leap of faith.

Kurtz explores Arthur’s Pass, the highest pass across the Southern Alps mountain range.It was, indeed, a “leap” from her original plan, which was to intern for Ernst & Young in her hometown, Toledo, Ohio. But then she got word of Ernst & Young’s Global Student Experience Program, which sends a select number of interns to offices across the world. She decided to apply for the program, and when she became one of the approximately 70 chosen interns (out of more than 1,000 applicants), there was no way she could refuse what she knew would be a life-changing experience.

The experience was everything she hoped for and more. She had opportunities to not only sightsee and experience a foreign culture, but also step into the shoes of a real New Zealander who lives, works and plays every day in the land of the kiwi birds and Middle Earth.

Speaking of work and play, one of the most surprising aspects of her trip was the country’s relaxed work culture, which was described to her as “80 percent play, 20 percent work.”

“We interns all thought this was insane and there was no way that accounting could be this inviting and easygoing,” she says. “Our first day in the office proved us wrong. While everyone does take their work seriously, coworkers are obviously trying to socialize and make the most of their interactions with one another.”

Kurtz, along with some coworkers, attends a rugby game between the Christchurch Crusaders and the Dunedin Highlanders.Those personal interactions became some of the greatest memories from her trip. Whether it was afternoon tea or a group outing, there were always plenty of ways to bond and enjoy spending time with fellow interns, coworkers and even clients, both inside and outside the office.

To give a snapshot of her experience, during her first weekend in New Zealand, she accompanied some coworkers to a rugby game between two rival teams in a packed stadium. The next day, they took a road trip to the peninsula of Kaikoura, where she enjoyed some of the most scenic views New Zealand has to offer. Admittedly, though, the best part of the weekend trip was learning to drive on the left side of the road, forcing herself to rebel against her natural driving tendencies.

Without a doubt, Kurtz is glad she decided to say “yes” to this opportunity.

I felt working in a new country would be a life-changing experience,” she says. “It’s one thing to travel and get to see all of the sights, but it’s another to truly immerse yourself in the culture. Getting to work side by side with someone across the world provided me with insights on different ways to think and approach a problem, different ways to communicate with coworkers and clients, and a different perspective on working cultures around the world.

Kurtz hikes in Kaikoura, a scenic peninsula known for its seafood, marine wildlife and mountainous terrain.Now back in the States, Kurtz looks forward to enjoying her final year at ONU. Her New Zealand experience has made her even hungrier to seize every opportunity because, as she puts it, “it is so easy to miss out on something life-changing if you don’t take risks.”