My name is Tom Sonntag. I’m currently a junior at the University of Utah working towards a degree in accounting and plan to go into strategy consulting. This isn’t something I could have told you six months ago. Before studying abroad with the Global Entrepreneurship Program, I felt challenged by the thought of deciding on a major without having first gained experience to know what really fit.
Throughout the entire spring 2018 semester, I had the opportunity to study in Asia with the Global Entrepreneurship Program. I chose this program after learning about all that it had to offer. We would be living in Seoul, South Korea, the location of the 2018 Winter Olympics, completing an Entrepreneurship Certificate, and gaining personal insights and experience from an international internship, University of Utah professors and mentors. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. The program is provided by the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the David Eccles School of Business.
For the first week we toured Shanghai, China, visiting palaces and gardens that were hundreds of years old, immersing ourselves in a completely foreign culture, some of us even stopped at Shanghai Disneyland for a day. Then we were off to our home base, Seoul, South Korea. Here we lived and studied at Chung-Ang University where we took classes designed to help us develop a venture from forming a cohesive idea to financing, marketing and selling it. We worked on these projects alongside 10 Korean students, whom we developed close friendships with as they showed us some of their culture.
Throughout February and April we interned with the Seoul Global Startup Center. I interned as a marketing and data analyst with VR Comet, an RPG gaming company that teaches languages through virtual reality. They were in their beginning stages, so my multi-faceted intern role was different every day.
During spring break the program took us to Phuket, Thailand. We took boat tours of the Phi-Phi Islands, swam into island caves where only monkeys and bats lived. We jumped on boat taxis to private beaches and drank fresh coconut juice from coconuts we pulled right off the trees.
When we returned to Seoul, we had the opportunity to take private tours with companies such as Samsung and MetLife, as well as with the Broadcasting Center for the 2018 Seoul Winter Olympics. I even scored some tickets to the Slovenia-Russia Olympic Hockey game.
With all of the conflict between North and South Korea, it was an interesting time to live there. It was amazing to visit the Demilitarized Zone in between the two countries and to hear personal insights from our Korean friends about their country’s relationship with North Korea.
Before coming home, we spent our last week in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. It was a perfect way to end the trip walking through bamboo forests, temples and Tokyo arcades.
Studying abroad helped me to take myself out of my comfort zone, gain new and valuable experiences, and to grow. Interning with an international company and learning how to start my own venture provided so much context to everything I have been learning at the Eccles School.
Learn more about the Global Entrepreneurship Program at eccles.link/global-entp. The next trip will be to South American in spring 2019.